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It’s just a bill

Friday, Jan 30, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Keep in mind that not a single substantive committee meeting has yet been held in either chamber. So, this period is akin to the lead-up to pitchers and catchers reporting. Most of these ideas make for great press pops, and that’s about it

Lawmakers are toying with the idea of legalizing the sale of fireworks in Illinois. State Rep David Reis says it would be a great way to boost state revenues and keep people from going to other states to pick them up. But some fire chiefs and law enforcement officials think it’s a bad idea. They say it’ll cause a spike in fire related injuries and any extra money that comes in would be offset with increased medical claims and calls to first responders.

* I’d like to see this pass, but some school reformers (like Gov. Rauner) tend to love standardized testing because it can be used as a tool to put pressure on the hated teachers. So, this idea may have an uncertain future

Parents and educators alike have been questioning the increasing number of standardized tests now required in public schools. A measure filed by Illinois State Representative Will Guzzardi would give moms and dads a way to allow their kid to skip these exams.

“Seven other states have statutes allowing parents to opt out of their standardized testing,” Gizzard says. “Those states haven’t seen any sort of diminishment of their federal funding or anything like that, as some of the doom-and-gloom folks suggest might happen.”

Those states are California, Pennsylvania, Washington, Wisconsin, Oregon, Nebraska and Utah.

* Nice press pop, really bad idea

State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) filed legislation this week that would make Illinois the 25th state that allows municipalities to seek bankruptcy protections under Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

Chapter 9 allows for bankruptcy protection, but includes a provision that requires a municipality to gain state authorization as part of the filing. Currently, Illinois statutes do not allow for such authorization for municipal governments.

“House Bill 298 would allow desolate and debt-ridden municipalities in Illinois to seek bankruptcy protections through the federal bankruptcy law,” said Sandack. “As more and more municipalities are looking for relief and ways to deal with rising pension liabilities and other costs, this is a tool that can help them stabilize and reorganize financial affairs in ways that benefit taxpayers.”

* Press release…

In an effort to give terminally-ill patients access to clinical-trial, experimental medical treatments, the bipartisan duo of State Sen. Michael Connelly (R-Lisle) and State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) are seeking to bring “Right to Try” to Illinois.

If passed, Senate Bill 29 would make Illinois the sixth state in the nation to pass this potentially lifesaving access to experimental medical treatments. Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan and Missouri have pass the initiatives either through their legislatures or through referenda.

“It is incumbent upon us in the General Assembly to provide our constituents afflicted with terminal illness access to potentially life-saving or life-extending medications that have been deemed safe by the FDA. This legislation does just that,” Connelly said.

“I hope this shows that in Illinois, Republicans and Democrats, social liberals or social conservatives, can reach across the aisle to solve problems for suffering families. These families are desperate to cut through red-tape to access possible cures for their loved ones when all other treatments have failed.” Harris said. “‘Right to try’ is a huge leap forward to help connect our state’s most terminal patients with some of the nation’s best medical resources, including those here in Chicago and give them the gift of life.”

Good idea, but it’s gonna take a whole lot of work and attention to details.

* Illinois Review

One Illinois lawmaker who is working to give Illinois kids a good education now is State Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, who told the crowd of parents and students that she’s dedicated to making school choice a reality in Illinois.

Ives isn’t starting from scratch. A pilot voucher program nearly passed the General Assembly in 2010, when a Democratic state senator and a Democratic state representative took up the education reform mantle. The legislation passed the Illinois Senate, but stalled in the Illinois House with the help of downstate Republican lawmakers who refused to support parental choice because of the power of the public schools, which are one of the region’s largest employers.

Ives said she intends to shepherd through the House two education reform proposals this year: one to resurrect the failed 2010 voucher bill and another to increase the state’s tuition tax credit above the current meager $500 level.

Ives hasn’t passed any major legislation before, preferring instead to oppose things. It’s encouraging that she now wants to be part of a solution, but she has a lot of bridges to repair.

* And something different

Lawmakers in Illinois may take action that would reduce the price parents pay for diapers.

State Senator Martin Sandoval is proposing that the state sales tax on diapers and wipes be cut from 6.25 percent to 1 percent.

The lower rate is the one charged for groceries, medicine and certain medical products.


  1. - ChiTown Seven - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 9:54 am:

    Rich and others — why is it a “bad idea” to allow municipalities to declare bankruptcy? As Rich sometimes says, “Explain.”

  2. - Tommydanger - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 9:58 am:

    Always wondered if it made sense for Illinois to be among the very few that outlaw fireworks when they are so easily and routinely obtained from out of state sources. We still have whatever medical costs associated with their misuse, but none of the tax revenue from their sale. While our residents are out of state purchasing fireworks, I wonder if they are also purchasing gas and other items that we lose out on in sales tax revenue.

  3. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 9:59 am:

    ===State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) filed legislation this week that would make Illinois the 25th state that allows municipalities to seek bankruptcy protections under Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.===

    All Ron Sandack does lately is disappoint.

    When you are the Prime Minister of the Rauner Paliament of Owls, dopey ideas become your forte.

    I hope, just for mocking purposes, Owl Sandack says “Detroit” like a hundred times and ends his ignorance with..,

    “Who wants the next Detroit? Who? Who wants that’s? Who?”

    I guess when Rauner and Uihiline make you theirs, you lose all rational thought?

    Rep. Sandack, when Rep. Ives looks more thoughtful and rational. comparably, you have fallen lower than just beibg an owl.


  4. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 10:06 am:

    To Rep. Ives,

    ===It’s encouraging that she now wants to be part of a solution, but she has a lot of bridges to repair.===

    Maybe having a Republican governor has inspired her to understand that you can completely believe as you do, but being part of solutions means working with others. Governing is a “we” thing, not an “us”, “them” and “Lemme tell you why you are wrong!”

    We need Bernie Petersens and Mark Beaubiens to get to 60, and pulling together makes that easier to achieve.

    Mend the fences, build back the bridges.

    Good luck.

  5. - Anon - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 10:07 am:

    Yes, taxes on diapers should be lower for babies AND seniors! Sure seems health related.

  6. - David's Blanket - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 10:08 am:

    Rep. Sandack’s new campaign song: Panic in Detroit;_ylt=AnqH.W5jAZvN03nboEVuvOWbvZx4?fr=yfp-t-412-s&toggle=1&fp=1&cop=mss&ei=UTF-8&p=panic%20in%20detroit%20youtube

  7. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 10:09 am:

    ==allowing parents to opt out of their standardized testing==

    So while teachers are busy ==teaching to the test== and overseeing practice exams, your kids are doing what, instead? They’re sure not getting one-on-one time with the teacher, who is obviously busy. Do they wind up taking those practice exams and so on for a test they are obviously not taking?

    That seems to defeat the entire purpose of this.

  8. - ChicagoR - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 10:10 am:

    I hope fireworks legalization doesn’t pass. Michigan did it a couple of years ago, and summer weekends are now like being in a war zone. I think my dog has PTSD. Local police hate it. The only people who benefited in Michigan are those who sell fireworks and the legislators who took their donations.

  9. - Stuff Happens - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 10:11 am:

    So what does bankruptcy options for municipalities do to the proposed pension cost-shifting that will inevitably come back up?

  10. - David's Blanket - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 10:12 am:

    ==Rich and others — why is it a “bad idea” to allow municipalities to declare bankruptcy? As Rich sometimes says, “Explain.”==

    You should talk to potential bond investors and the credit rating agencies about how they feel about Detroit’s bankruptcy. This may inject the 800 lb Gorilla (municipal BK and Detroit) - that no one is currently discussing - into the Chicago City Elections and the State of the State address…at the very minimum, this Bill may drive up everyone’s borrowing costs and harm taxpayers.

  11. - Judgment Day - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 10:15 am:

    “State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) filed legislation this week that would make Illinois the 25th state that allows municipalities to seek bankruptcy protections under Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.”

    First step in what is sure to become a brutally nasty fight. Part of the background in this involves police and fire pensions.

    The state sets the retirement terms, and units of local government have to do the funding. There are tax levies for both police and fire pensions, but they have max. limits, and are also subject to tax caps. So, limited funds. The additional money tends to come out of the general fund.

    So the result is that more and more municipalities are ‘hollowing out’ the rest of their operations to divert those ’saved’ funds into police and fire retirement benefits.

    If you study those annual financial reports (all that fine print), you see it happening. Sandack is just responding to his municipalities.

    The really fun fight is going to be when both the City of Chicago and Cook County government are going to finally admit the retirement/pension mess they are in. They are not IMRF, they have their own retirement plans. Percentage funding wise, they don’t appear to be much better off than the State of Illinois is (at least based upon 2013 numbers). Both City and Cook County might be the biggest beneficiaries of what Rep. Sandick is attempting to accomplish.

    Interesting to watch. Going to take a while to play out.

  12. - Team Sleep - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 10:16 am:

    Vouchers can be a good thing. I will “localize” this as best as I can.

    I grew up in a small area. The closest private school was 15+ minutes away. There was a top notch private school system about 45 minutes away, so it was a logistical impossibility for any students from my district to attend the private schools (especially the top notch school).

    However, in Springfield, there are several great private schools. It is much more of a realistic possibility for a student to attend a private elementary, middle or high school. There are only three public high schools in Springfield, so the concern about travel time for a student to reach a private high school is much less of worry for parents and students given the current layout of the public high schools in town. Vouchers would be doable in an area the size of Springfield.

  13. - out of touch - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 10:16 am:

    Willy is right about Sandack. He’s shifted drastically to the right and seems to have lost his objectivity, which once was one of his best attributes.

  14. - Arthur Andersen - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 10:16 am:

    ChiR, I’ll second that. Even though they’re illegal in Illinois, I have some numbnuts neighbors who go to Missouri and buy a carload every year. The neighborhood sounds like Baghdad ca. 2004. My poor dog just goes crazy.

  15. - Responsa - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 10:22 am:

    Agree about the fireworks, Chicago R. on public safety concerns. Baaaad idea to legalize. Even without them being legal here there are people who get them in other states and set them off in IL to impress their friends or children. We had one of the hot rockets land on our roof from neighbor’s backyard almost half a block away. Thank goodness we were alert both to their fireworks show, and were home with a hose. Had we not been who knows what might have happened.

  16. - Gooner - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 10:26 am:

    Although “Gizzard” was a typo in the original, I think it might just stick.

    The other choice, of course, was Flounder.

  17. - Gooner - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 10:31 am:

    I have to agree with most of the comments about Ron Sandack. The guy used to be moderate, and now he’s gone sort of bonkers.

    His idea may get a few municipalities out of some problems, but overall it will increase the cost of borrowing for all of them. That seems like a terrible trade off.

  18. - Wordslinger - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 10:32 am:

    JD, I wouldn’t count on a bankruptcy law being of any to use to Chicago to dodge its pension obligations.

    I doubt if a judge could be convinced of an inability to meet obligations when you have an apartment and hotel tower building boom in the greater Loop and new price records for commercial and residential real estate every other week.

  19. - foster brooks - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 10:35 am:

    Why legalize fireworks here when I can spend my hard earned dollars in Missouri kentucky indiana & rauners favorite wisconsin. …its the Illinois way

  20. - PublicServant - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 10:36 am:

    ===Most of these ideas make for great press pops, and that’s about it…===


  21. - Peters Post - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 10:38 am:

    I do not like the idea of parents opting theit children out of standardized testing. It skews the reualts and undermine the validity of the test results. On the other hand standardized testing is way out of control in our schools. How about if the school aid formula only credit school districts with days for one set of standardized testing per year. If districts want more the entire cost of the test and those school days are on them.

  22. - Illinoisvoter - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 10:38 am:

    Let’s see if anyone can do the real lifting to lower the sales tax on diapers. Like many who
    spent time in the book trade discover the tax exemption on periodicals is just silly. Not only
    is difficult to determine the difference between
    an annual magazine and a book it is sad to exempt
    not just the New Yorker or the National Review
    but also hardcover pornography from taxation.
    That dark side of publishing has been the laundry
    for more nefarious money so an offset could do
    some serious good.

  23. - David's Blanket - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 10:56 am:

    Fueling bankruptcy rumors for Chicago, Cook County and other debt laden communities is bad for all borrowers…and I wonder if his Bill allows for BK by SURS, TRS and other State Agencies?

    GTCR may have drafted this one for Rep. Sandack…

  24. - Judgment Day - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 10:57 am:

    “JD, I wouldn’t count on a bankruptcy law being of any to use to Chicago to dodge its pension obligations.

    I doubt if a judge could be convinced of an inability to meet obligations when you have an apartment and hotel tower building boom in the greater Loop and new price records for commercial and residential real estate every other week.”

    Word, that’s going to be an interesting concept. If that happens, you’ll basically have the judiciary imposing increased real estate tax burdens upon home rule jurisdictions with the increase going to pay for public pensions. Long term tax obligations, yet.

    I’d bet that in more than a few quarters, it’s going to be viewed as “Taxation upon the many for benefit of the few”. Fair or not, that’s how it’s likely to be seen.

    Talk about an interesting fight.

  25. - Soccertease - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 11:00 am:

    Pitchers and catchers that report early or on time are usually the ones that need the most work like these proposals. Clayton Kershaw reports whenever he wants to.

  26. - Rod - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 11:02 am:

    I am not sure Rep Ives would be the primary sponsor of any voucher bill in the House, also the bill would be based on the bill written by then Senator Meeks. My guess is it will be a Catholic Democrat who is the primary sponsor of it. It should also be noted that Speaker Madigan, even a Democrat with progressive credentials like Cynthia Soto voted for the Meeks bill and it failed still.

    The reason it failed was complex in part its due to the Catholic/ non-Catholic divide (since nationally Catholic schools get the bulk of voucher dollars), but also because of the eventual loss in funds to public school districts. The article notes that Ives sees some Republicans as part of the problem. I don’t see the voucher bill as repairing many bridges since some in her own party may oppose it. None the less there is a real possibility of it passing this time.

  27. - Annie H. - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 11:05 am:

    I don’t have a beef with Sandack lurching right — almost losing a primary to a deeply flawed arch-conservative will do that to you. I just wish he would occasionally have an un-tweeted thought.

  28. - Judgment Day - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 11:10 am:

    “Fueling bankruptcy rumors for Chicago, Cook County and other debt laden communities is bad for all borrowers…and I wonder if his Bill allows for BK by SURS, TRS and other State Agencies?

    GTCR may have drafted this one for Rep. Sandack… ”

    Huh? First off, hard pressed to see where GTCR has a dog in this fight. If you’ve been paying attention to cases in other states (not IL) where units of local government can file for bankruptcy, any private funding (bond issues, etc.) virtually always end up under the bankruptcy filing.

    And those folks take some serious haircuts. The financial folks are fighting these bankruptcy filing by units of local government to the bitter end, because they are pretty aware that if it’s them vrs. retirees, they’re not winning.

    Also, this would only apply to units of local government. As far as I know, there are no provisions for State government under the Bankruptcy code.

  29. - John Parnell - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 11:10 am:

    Sandacks bill would be better if he encouraged mergers of cities and towns, with joint TIF districts.

  30. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 11:11 am:

    - Annie H. -,

    With respect,

    “Who” funded his primary challenge?

    “Who” is that funder assisting right now?

    The math indicates not that the Owl Sandack is lurching Right, it’s that the Owl Sandack knows keeping Rauner happy, is keeping Uihiline out of his district come primary season.

    Sandack is now an “independent lemming” in hopes that Rauner won’t take him out as Uihline wanted to last time.

    “Follow the money”, then listen for the Owl.

    With respect.

  31. - Team Sleep - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 11:13 am:

    Rep. Sandack is definitely a good follow on social media. I am not surprised by his new “schtick”. He has been rightward-leaning on fiscal issues since he was in the Senate, and having Governor Rauner at the helm only gives him more of a cover on staking out such positions.

  32. - Judgment Day - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 11:17 am:

    “and I wonder if his Bill allows for BK by SURS, TRS and other State Agencies?”

    TRS only if if the state shifts those pension obligations to local school districts. Then “maybe”.

    And that’s if legislation passes allowing local school districts to file bankruptcy.

    Otherwise the schools just probably wouldn’t open, or would set an advance ‘close’ date mid school year. Assuming there were no obvious legal issues to doing so…..

    More interesting times….

  33. - Anyone Remember - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 11:21 am:

    Team Sleep
    Will private schools have to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act? Produce Individualized Assessment Plans? Be subject to FOIA? Take whoever walks in the door like public schools do? Be unable to mandate parental involvement?

  34. - Tony - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 11:23 am:

    Sandack’s bankruptcy bill has about as much chance of becoming law as Rauner’s “right-to-work” push — slim and none.

    The best chance for municipal bankruptcy reform could come in Washington if the GOP ever controls both the White House and Congress. The federal bankruptcy code requires states to affirmatively authorize municipalities to file for protection. If that part of the federal code is struck, municipalities won’t have to battle (and inevitably lose to) the cops and firefighters in Springfield.

  35. - Team Sleep - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 11:30 am:

    Anyone -

    1. The private schools in Springfield with which I am familiar already comply with ADA, provide/produce such individual plans and accept any student so long as tuition is paid (which would be taken care of via a voucher. Most private schools (and perhaps all) have need-based tuition assistance. Our kids’ school is part of network that offers grants/assistance.

    2. This is Illinois. Any amendment requiring FOIA compliance in exchange for voucher acceptance could be tacked on to the original bill (if the language is not already in the original bill). There were 7,000 bills introduced in the House during the 98th General Assembly. That issue can be handled in a fairly short and efficient order.

    3. I am not sure what you mean by “unable to mandate parental involvement”. Are you asking whether private schools can be forced to NOT require parental involvement?

  36. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 11:34 am:

    ==it would be a great way to boost state revenues and keep people from going to other states to pick them up.==

    Sounds like the same arguments made in favor of legalizing and expanding gambling and marijuana use.

  37. - Old Shepherd - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 11:46 am:

    My two pet peeves about living in Illinois used to be 1) 65 mph speed limit on the interstates, and 2) not being able to buy fireworks here. I can now legally drive 70 mph to Missouri to buy fireworks. I would like to stay here and buy them! It’s just silly that they are illegal here and legal everywhere else.

  38. - Rod - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 11:48 am:

    Team Sleep it depends on the value of the voucher as to whether or not it would cover tuition at your child’s private school. Also based on a 2013 DOJ ruling relating to Milwaukee’s voucher program special education obligations may have to be more than just ADA accommodations, but the full rights under section 504 of the Rehab Act.

    You should also be aware that the Meeks bill had a means test on parent income and most middle class families would not get the voucher based on that means test. There is nothing simple about this legislation and whether a private school might want to be part of it.

  39. - Anyone Remember - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 11:54 am:

    Team Sleep
    The private schools I am aware of only partially comply with ADA - haven’t seen anything offering the range of services Springfield School District offered with Lee School. This isn’t just an Illinois problem - New York state is wrestling with this.

    Mandated parental involvement - California has just ruled public charter schools cannot mandate parental involvement - generally, private schools can.

    IF private schools want public funds (vouchers), then they should have to comply with all the statutes, rules & regulations, and court orders the public schools do (which, in Springfield, includes the desegregation consent decree).

  40. - Anonymous - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 12:28 pm:

    Historically, I was against banning sale of fireworks in Illinois until I had to deal with a neighbor who was a total idiot about fireworks. He had no regard for neighbors with livestock or the time and duration of his fireworks, and the $1M liability insurance was no deterrent. This clown launched about everything including Class C fireworks. The residue would literally rain down on our properties. From this experience, I’m glad fireworks are banned — mostly — because we still experience some but nothing like it was before the ban.

  41. - train111 - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 12:29 pm:

    So how can Rep Ives be for a voucher bill that would cut $$$ from public schools–probably alot in her district where people would be more apt to go for private schools, but at the same time be so opposed to SB16 which would also cut $$$ from public schools in her district?

    Six of one and half dozen of the other–right???

  42. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 1:15 pm:

    Re: Sandack’s right swing

    That’s what happens when you are more interested in being a #tcot top follow than an Illinois legislator.

  43. - Arthur Andersen - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 1:49 pm:

    “GTCR must have drafted this for Rep. Sandack”

    What is up today? Full moon? Half off on crack? The Looney Tunes crew is out in force today.

    Ignoring the fact that pension funds are component financial units of the State and have no relationship to municipalities, the hypothetical is nonsensical. GTCR has drawn all its committed capital from both the funds and is done with TRS-couple more years to go with SERS/ISBI. A “bankruptcy” of that fund would have zero impact on GTCR paying out remaining fees.

    David, take blankie and go back under the bridge, k?

  44. - David's Blanket - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 2:18 pm:

    AA: GTCR has very successfully used bankruptcy to shed billions in private sector debt. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is part of a Rauner strategy to give the locals a BK option before diverting municipality sales tax revenue (and other state funds to locals) to pay the state’s debt. I wouldn’t assume that Sandack is off the reservation here.

    Don’t hate me because I’m cuddly!

  45. - anon - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 2:43 pm:

    States with lax fireworks laws have higher rates of fireworks-related injuries to children than states like IL with strict laws. While it’s true some people smuggle in fireworks from IN, the law discourages others and fireworks are not as accessible as they would be under the Reis regime.

  46. - thechampaignlife - Friday, Jan 30, 15 @ 7:56 pm:

    Meager tuition tax credit? That $500 credit is equivalent to reducing your taxable income by $10,000 (at the 5% rate, even more at the 3.75% rate). Big difference between a tax deduction and a tax credit!

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

* Afternoon roundup
* Question of the day
* DCFS responds to yet another explosive report
* Todd Maisch
* Civic Committee wants to invest tens of millions of dollars, create thousands of jobs to pull off ambitious crime-prevention program
* Yes, we have big problems, but we're most certainly not alone
* Bills that didn’t make the cut
* Why is this allowed to happen in plain sight?
* Open thread
* Isabel’s morning briefing
* Live coverage
* Yesterday's stories

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