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*** UPDATED x1 *** Poison pill kills cupcake bill

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

*** UPDATE ***. A motion to reconsider was passed, Trotter withdrew his poison pill amendments and a “clean” bill has passed.

- End of update -

* Illinois Review

It could soon cost $200 for kids to set up a lemonade stand, have a bake sale or sell cupcakes in Illinois.

“This is absolutely insane!” State Senator Jim Oberweis (R-Aurora) said at a Capitol press conference Friday. “Somebody in Madison County went crazy and decided to enforce a law against an 11 year old kid who was baking cupcakes. That was a mistake, but it happened.”

In the House, the little girl Oberweis referred to - Chloe Stirling of Troy’s State Representative Charlie Meier tried to do the right thing by introducing a law that would help those in her situation and exempt up to $1000 in sales.

“Then what happened? It came to the Senate… We ‘Illinois-ized’ the bill - doing things the way we do in Illinois, which is everything we can to discourage entrepeneurism to discourage business interests,” Oberweis told reporters. […]

[Sen. Donne Trotter] amended the bill to require anyone selling food products to take an 8 hour food service sanitation course costing $145, obtain a county health department permit costing $25, label the food products to indicate ingredients and the fact that they are homemade, plus another $35 fee.

* As expected, the amendment sank the bill today

(B)y a 17-32 vote, with six members voting present, state senators killed the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, arguing it went too far and was unduly burdensome for children like Stirling wanting to make a few bucks off selling cupcakes or cookies on their driveways. […]

“This may sound like a silly thing known as the ‘cupcake girl’ bill, but this goes to the heart of what goes on in Springfield,” Oberweis said. “It’s an example of how we are Illinoizing, killing, entrepreneurship among kids.”

Trotter, however, defended the principle behind his legislation.

“It sounds good to talk about all these things — that we’re stifling entrepreneurship,” he said. “No, we’re actually encouraging it the right way. There are laws that have to be adhered to when you sell to the public. There are things we must be cognizant of, and that is the allergies or the other things that will impact other individuals’ health. That’s the job of public health.”


- Posted by Rich Miller   125 Comments      

For the newbies

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

* Because I also write my daily newsletter, I’m often quite busy in the afternoons running down stories, etc. This is especially true in the last week of session.

So, if you’re looking for breaking Statehouse news, the very best place to find it is on our live session coverage post. Click here to go there now.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Question of the day

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Universities in Illinois may soon get the chance to research industrial hemp. HB5085 is weaving its way through the legislature.

The Illinois Farm Bureau has been pushing the idea. But hemp was banned in the 1970’s and labeled a controlled substance, as it is related to marijuana.

Supporters say hemp can be re-purposed for materials like clothing, rope and much more. David Leitch–a House Republican from Peoria–says there’s been enough communication about what hemp actually is to make lawmakers comfortable with the bill.

“Time has come and the question is whether Illinois is going to be timely to this or be last like usual,” Leitch said.

* From the bill’s synopsis

Provides that an institution of higher education or the Department of Agriculture may grow or cultivate industrial hemp if (1) the industrial hemp is grown or cultivated for purposes of research conducted under an agricultural pilot program or other agricultural or academic research, (2) the pilot program studies the growth, cultivation, or marketing of industrial hemp, and (3) any site used for the growing or cultivating of industrial hemp is certified by, and registered with, the Department of Agriculture.

The bill is now on concurrence in the House. The bill passed the Senate unanimously, 51-0. Almost all of those not voting were Democrats.

I’m continually amazed at these cannabis-related roll calls. Check out this link for some Illinois hemp history. It’s quite long.

* The Question: Should the General Assembly just forget about these studies and legalize hemp? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      

A Real Solution for the Future

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Illinois faces a retirement crisis. Over 2.5 million private sector workers in Illinois have no access to a retirement plan through their employer.

The question is not how to deal with the retirement crisis, but how and when…

The Secure Choice Savings Program (SB2758) is the how, and immediately is the when.

Senate Bill 2758 is a commonsense bill designed to give millions of private sector workers the choice to save for retirement through automatic payroll deductions into a Roth IRA, and the provides the opportunity for financial independence.

Without Secure Choice, Illinoisans will continue to rely on social security alone and continue to retire into poverty, placing an increasing burden on the State and taxpayers. Amongst African Americans, Latinos and low-wage workers, the need for Secure Choice is even greater.

Secure Choice is a bipartisan effort that strengthens the Illinois economy for everyone.

“I support Senate Bill 2758 because it is an innovative private sector focused option that will encourage long-term savings by individuals. People will have additional retirement security and the overall economy will benefit from the pool of capital created by additional savings,”
- Representative David McSweeney (R), chief co-sponsor of the bill.

“It is a startling fact that the typical household of color has nothing saved in a retirement account, but Secure Choice opens up access to a secure and affordable employment-based retirement savings opportunity from which minority communities have been historically excluded,”
- Martin Cabrera, Jr., CEO of Cabrera Capital Markets, one of the largest Hispanic-owned financial services firms in the United States.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      

A Trojan Horse ad

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

* Illinois Policy Action, the new, more overt political arm of the Illinois Policy Institute has been running a Chicago-targeted online ad that can only be described as chock full of chutzpah.

As you most certainly are aware by now, the Illinois Policy Institute wants to end the public pension system as we know it and replace it with a 401(k) type of plan.

But this week-old ad allies the group with Chicago city workers by urging them to ask Gov. Pat Quinn to veto the pension reform bill which “takes more of your money, cuts your benefits, but fails to improve your retirement security.”

I kid you not

The video has over 7,600 views so far.

* Script…

Are you a Chicago city worker?

If Governor Quinn signs the Chicago pension bill, he’ll cut your pension benefits and take even more from your paycheck.

What? So we can continue to bail out the crooked politicians who have nearly bankrupted Chicago?

Demand Quinn veto the bill that takes more of your money, cuts your benefits, but fails to improve your retirement security.

This bill only benefits the same politicians that got us into this mess.

Click the link, and tell Quinn to veto the Chicago pension bill.

* Clicking the link takes you to, where workers are encouraged to send this message to Gov. Quinn

Dear Gov. Quinn,

For decades, politicians have underfunded city-worker pensions and broken their retirement promises. Now my retirement future is at risk.

It’s not fair for you to ask me to pay more in property taxes, contribute more to the pension system and cut my cost-of-living adjustments. And you’ll have done nothing to ensure that politicians stop using my pension as a slush fund.

All of this will fall on the backs of my family and me, as well as the thousands of other individuals who have dedicated their lives to working for the city.

I’m asking you to veto the Madigan/Rahm pension bill and take your “solution” back to the drawing board.

Man, that takes some serious gall.

Last month, the group posted a video of a public school teacher arguing against the proposed progressive income tax. It received less than 200 views.

* And while the Illinois Policy Institute is sucking up to unionized Chicago public employees and Downstate teachers, its Journalist in Residence Scott Reeder just penned a column demanding a right to work law in Illinois...

Thirty-one years ago, I gave a speech to my high school rhetoric class on how Illinois ought to become a right-to-work state.

Back when I was in high school, my hometown of Galesburg was an industrial center that churned out lawnmowers, refrigerators, steel buildings and outboard motors.

Industrial unions were powerful in Galesburg just as they were in nearby Peoria, Moline and all across Illinois. So my speech calling for ending compulsory unionism was not particularly well received.

After all, many of my classmates were the sons and daughters of union workers. To them, I was preaching apostasy. A right-to-work law simply means that employees cannot be forced to join or otherwise pay union dues in order to keep their jobs.

Today, when I visit my hometown, I feel sadness. Those union factory jobs have evaporated. Many of my classmates have moved to other states to raise their families.

- Posted by Rich Miller   55 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** More budget deets leak

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

* I told subscribers about this earlier today

Although the so-called “middle of the road” budget plan may be more palatable to election-minded lawmakers, the new approach nearly guarantees Gov. Pat Quinn will have to navigate some serious financial potholes as he runs the state and plots his re-election chances against Republican Bruce Rauner.

The proposal, for example, won’t account for rising wages, higher health insurance bills and other unavoidable cost increases in the fiscal year beginning July 1, meaning even a flat budget in some state agencies could still seem like a significant cut — especially once the temporary tax hike expires at the end of the year.

“It’s still going to feel very draconian,” said Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago. “The agencies will have their challenges.”

Without an increase to payroll and health insurance lines, the state may very well be forced to lay off workers.

Earlier this year, the Senate Democrats estimated that total “increased costs from legally binding personnel contracts” for next fiscal year would be $373 million.

*** UPDATE *** So much for that idea

A bid to fight obesity through taxing sweetened drinks lost its fizz Tuesday as a House committee rejected a plan that could have injected $600 million into the state treasury.

The measure, which failed by a 2-7 vote, would have charged a penny more per ounce on sweetened beverages, making a 2-liter bottle of soda cost about 67 cents more than its artificially sweetened, zero-calorie counterpart.

“I think the public policy initiative is good; I just think you’re really hitting the consumer with a substantial tax that, to me, is not consistent,” said Rep. David Harris, R-Arlington Heights, who voted against the legislation.

But state Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, the sponsor of the sugar tax, said the difference in cost was necessary because it incentivized choosing the healthier drink.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      

Emanuel: Video gun sales, limit to one buy a month

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

* Tribune

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is taking another crack at heavily regulating firearms in Chicago after a federal court ruled an outright ban on gun sales was illegal: Requiring gun dealers to videotape sales.

Under a plan Emanuel is preparing to introduce, gun dealers would videotape the sales “to discourage traffickers and buyers who use false identification,” according to a report from the city detailing the specifics of the ordinance.

In addition, the proposal would require a 72-hour waiting period for purchasing handguns and 24 hours for rifles and shotguns. A dealer would be able to sell only one handgun per month per buyer, and the store records would be subject to quarterly audits to discourage trafficking.

If a business license is revoked for failing to follow the law, “former key employees and managers cannot reopen immediately in the same location.”

* The Sun-Times writes about the reasoning behind the videotaping

[Janey Rountree, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff for public safety] said similar safety measures were imposed on gun stores in New York City in a settlement of a 2006 lawsuit the city brought against 20 firearms dealers.

Those stores agreed to videotape the “point of sale” when a customer bought a gun, Rountree said. Their employees also received training from a retired federal agent on identifying potential “straw purchasers,” people who can legally buy guns but then supply criminals with them.

As a result, those dealers saw an 85 percent drop in the number of “crime guns” they sold, Rountree said.

The one gun a month rule, though, has been successfully challenged elsewhere.

- Posted by Rich Miller   48 Comments      

Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY: End stuff

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

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Ride-sharing: Close the Insurance Gap

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Based on testimony from the Illinois Department of Insurance and other experts, the (Illinois Senate Transportation) Committee found that “customers, drivers and pedestrians are potentially put in harm’s way due to the lack of insurance coverage.”

Statement from Illinois Department of Transportation

When the Illinois Department of Transportation and all the statewide experts are warning us that our citizens are being put in harm’s way, we should listen.

The truth is that ride-sharing companies’ current insurance plans are just not enough.

Ridesharing companies claim to have a fabulous one million dollar policy but there are no facts to support this claim. The policy does not provide the public with any primary coverage, only excess, which in most cases will not cover accidents. And personal insurance policies of the drivers don’t apply while drivers are providing rides for money.

This insurance gap has real life and death consequences. Recently, an Uber driver hit and killed a 6-year-old girl in San Francisco, only to have Uber deny responsibility and keep the little girl’s family from any insurance compensation because there was “ no passenger in the car.”

Tell the Governor to sign HB 4075 and close the insurance gap, so a tragic case like San Francisco never happens here in Illinois.

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Taxes, taxes and revenue

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

* I told subscribers about this 11th Hour move last week

A proposed hike in Chicago’s tax on cellphones has surfaced in Springfield — one of a series of last-minute developments as lawmakers rush to pass a budget and take up other business before their scheduled adjournment May 31.

The phone tax, which would apply only to cellphones and not land lines, is being pushed in the Illinois General Assembly by lobbyists for Mayor Rahm Emanuel and reportedly would take the levy from $2.50 a month now to $3.90.

A spokeswoman for the city budget office would say almost nothing about the move, saying only that the current surcharge for operation of the city’s 911 emergency center expires July 1 and “we are working with the General Assembly on an extension bill.” […]

Steve Brown, House Speaker Michael Madigan’s spokesman, confirmed the matter is pending, but “I don’t know that the (tax) numbers have been finalized.”

As of the other day, the mobile phone folks appeared grudgingly willing to settle for a $1 hike. We’ll see where it ends.

The city originally asked for no cap at all.

* In other news

Cook County leaders said Tuesday they’ll offer a plan to the Legislature this week to shore up a pension system expected to go into the red “in a big way” in the decades to come.

But Ivan Samstein, the county’s chief financial officer, could offer few specifics to explain how the county would fund the proposed $146.9 million increase in its contributions during the 2016 fiscal year — other than by trying to “make county government more efficient.”

“You do those things first and then you talk about taxes afterward,” Samstein said.

Tax and fee increases are a last resort in fixing the county’s pension system, he said — but not off the table.

* Meanwhile

For the first time since slot machines began to appear in bars and taverns across the state in summer 2012, video gaming recorded its first month-to-month drop in tax revenue last month. Illinois’ cut of the industry’s profits fell about 2 percent in April from March, records show.

That decrease in revenue amounted to about $300,000 less in taxes paid. And that’s despite the continued rise in the number of video gaming licenses in Illinois, which grew 4.5 percent from 15,667 in March to 16,380 in April.

But individual machines still took in about $106.45 in net income on a per-day basis — above the monthly average of $96.16. And the tax revenue collected last month outpaced February’s numbers by about 19 percent.

The bottom line: Video gaming experienced only its second-best month in April.

It should also come as no surprise that the boat people want lots more restrictions on video gaming establishments to protect their former monopolies.

- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      

Today’s must-see video: Why Sox fans are the best fans

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

* Wow

* Deets

When Sox catcher Tyler Flowers lost his grip on his bat on a second-inning swing, it sailed into the seats at U.S. Cellular Field. A fan seated in the first row, identified by MLB’s Cut 4 website as Eileen Depesa, speared the flying bat one-handed after it bounced off the top of the dugout and prevented it from injuring anyone.

Depesa had to return the bat, but as she told Cut 4, “I was more concerned with protecting the baby seated behind me.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      

Madigan makes move on Lincoln presidential library

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

* From a few days ago

House Speaker Michael Madigan moved Friday to shift control of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum away from a state agency in a move that was not initiated by Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration, which now controls the complex.

The Southwest Side Democrat introduced legislation removing control over the Lincoln facilities from the state Historic Preservation Agency and establishing an independent entity to oversee it.

“I just think he believes an entity as important as the Lincoln library deserves to be a stand-alone entity,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown told Early & Often, the Chicago Sun-Times online political portal.

* The bill passed out of the Executive Committee with only one dissenting vote. The advisory board’s chairman, Steven Beckett, who is also a U of I law professor, said he drafted the bill

“The board had great hopes that we would have a significant role to play regarding operation of the museum and library,” Beckett testified before the committee. “We actually have very little to say.”

Beckett said there are a number of problems at the facility that aren’t being addressed, including 17 vacant positions at the library and four at the museum. He said there is no consistent policy to replace those people.

“We need to focus and solve these problems, and they’re not being solved,” Beckett said.

He also said the board tried to implement programs, but the separate Illinois Historic Preservation Agency board also had to sign off on them.

“The IHPA board has a different mission,” Beckett said.

Those job openings are inexcusable in this economy. However, the Quinn administration takes its sweet time approving applicants. The general rule of thumb is even if the Quinnsters want you hired, expect to wait up to a year.

* And since MJM is the sponsor, speculation ran rampant

Madigan’s proposal could benefit some of his friends. The Springfield presidential museum is run by Eileen Mackevich, a Madigan friend. Madigan confirmed she is a longtime acquaintance of Stanley Balzekas, whose family runs the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture. Madigan acknowledged his Southwest Side office is at the same 13th Ward address as the museum, and that Balzekas is the landlord.

“Yeah. Yeah. Yeah,” said Madigan, who noted Balzekas is an “eminent Lithuanian American.”
The speaker said “no” when asked if his friendships with Balzekas and Mackevich played any role in the decision to try to separate the Lincoln library and museum from the Quinn administration, pointing instead to what he said were operational problems with the current set-up. […]

Madigan, who doubles as the Illinois Democratic Party chairman, maintained he “wouldn’t expect” a separate Lincoln agency to be turned into a political landing zone for his own partisan pals. Asked if he had anyone in mind for the top spot at the Lincoln agency, Madigan referenced Mackevich, saying, “There’s an executive director there today.”

* More

Balzekas and Mackevich are not married, though they frequently attend functions together.

* But there do appear to be legit differences between the advisory board and the IHPA

Mackevich and Historic Preservation Agency Director Amy Martin have had disagreements, including over where to house and how to display a potential gift from former U.S. Sen. Adlai Stevenson III of his political papers and those of three previous generations of his family, including his father, Adlai Stevenson II, who was a former governor and a Democratic presidential nominee, and Adlai Stevenson, who served under President Grover Cleveland as vice president.

Martin and Mackevich also have disagreed on the importance of a potential exhibit of Civil War-era music at the Lincoln museum, which was Mackovich’s idea. She described it as not a “high priority” for Martin, who could not be reached Monday.

But Mackevich insisted a personality clash with her boss, Martin, is not what is driving Madigan’s legislation.

“I don’t think this is a personality clash. If that’s what people are trying to say, that’s not so. I’m long in the tooth. I’m a person who’s been founder and president of the Chicago Humanities Council. I ran the National Bicentennial Commission. I’m willing to share of my knowledge and learning. I think what we’re talking about is different visions, not a personality clash,” she said. “There’s a big difference.”

Mackevich went on to tout her accomplishments, including being a founder and president of the Chicago Humanities Council and her running the National Bicentennial Commission.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      

Patchwork quilt budget puts off problems until next year

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

* Way back in late March, I did a couple of analyses of the budget outlook for subscribers and concluded that a bunch of cash appeared to have been squirreled away. It was impossible to say for sure just how much was available, but it looked to me like it was maybe around a billion dollars or more.

I wasn’t attempting to make the case that the state’s fiscal problems aren’t real, just that the GA could probably limp through this next fiscal year and then essentially kick the can down the road until after the November election. The problems are real for FY2015, but they get much, much more difficult in FY2016, when the full impact of the tax hike expiration will become apparent.

Anyway, kicking the can appears to be what the Democratic leaders have now agreed to do

House Speaker Michael Madigan on Monday declared an extension of the 2011 temporary income tax increase dead for the spring and said House Democrats are preparing a “middle-of-the-road budget” that eases up on spending cuts that were part of a failed budget blueprint last week.

Madigan informed his 71-member House Democratic caucus that he was taking the income-tax extension favored by Gov. Pat Quinn off the table and shifting budgetary strategy as state lawmakers enter their final week before a scheduled Saturday adjournment.

“We’re proceeding under the expectation that the income-tax increase will not be extended,” Madigan told reporters after a Monday committee hearing at the Statehouse. […]

Madigan said the new spending plan that he expects to emerge soon will be a hybrid of the so-called failed “doomsday” budget that mustered only five House votes last Friday and an earlier, more-generous package of 73 spending bills that passed the week before on the assumption the income-tax extension would pass.

* More

Budget makers will look to borrowing built-up money in special funds and spending adjustments to develop a “middle-of-the-road” fiscal outline – between the doomsday scenario and one that increased spending by $3 billion with the continued escalated income tax.

* More

Madigan said the new budget will be based on a revenue estimate adopted in the House earlier this year that set $34.5 billion as the target. That projection will be increased by $189 million because of revised estimates for next year since the original estimate was set.

Quinn had said “savage” cuts would have to be made to education if the tax hike was allowed to expire. Madigan, though, said the plan is to give elementary and secondary education the same amount they received this year.

“It will be held flat,” Madigan said. “We’re always interested in providing more help for education, but at the same time we’re required to live within the revenue estimates that are available.”

He added that “pension payments will be made.” […]

Asked if the budget under development might results in layoffs and closures, Madigan said, “Those are matters for the agencies and the institutions to decide.”

* Raw MJM video

- Posted by Rich Miller   88 Comments      


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

* The budgetary fog begins to clear

- Posted by Rich Miller   3 Comments      

Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Supplement to today’s edition and a Statehouse roundup

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

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

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

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* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Tonight's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* Reader comments closed for the holiday weekend
* Sen. Connelly concedes
* Question of the day
* GOMB: State needs another $3+ billion a year to stay even
* Raoul announces transition committee
* *** UPDATED x1 *** The Democrats' vote-by-mail juggernaut
* Why the Firearms Restraining Order Act is so important
* Pension benefits are not cut in the abstract
* The way forward
* Yes, something can be done
* Monday's heroes
* Yesterday's stories

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