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Moody’s sees trouble ahead

Tuesday, Feb 24, 2015

* From Moody’s. ..

Moody’s has issued a short comment (attached) regarding Governor Rauner’s initial proposal to close a projected 21% budget gap for the State of Illinois (rated A3/negative outlook) in the coming fiscal year. Rather than raising revenue, the proposed budget would cut pensions and employee health insurance spending, local government subsidies, Medicaid and other services, and rely on spending restraint that, given political and legal challenges, will prove hard to implement. Many of the Republican governor’s proposals, we believe, will face strong opposition from Democrats, who retain control over both legislative chambers. To the extent they are enacted, however, the funding reductions would shift fiscal pressure from the state to local units of government, public universities, healthcare providers and other entities that rely on state funding.

The proposed funding reductions to local governments, public universities and healthcare providers would all require approval in the legislature, where Democrats control both chambers by veto-proof majorities. This political landscape may make it difficult to enact even a few key elements of the governor’s proposal, much less the entire plan to achieve balance without raising revenues. The governor has indicated a willingness to discuss tax reform and increasing revenue by broadening the sales tax base to include services.

Under the fiscal 2016 budget proposal, local governments would see their state-shared income tax distributions cut in half, to $600 million. Among Moody’s-rated Illinois cities, income tax receipts accounted for a median 10% percent of operating revenues in fiscal 2013. The ability of local governments to offset a cut in income taxes with other tax increases varies widely. While home-rule cities have wide revenue-raising flexibility, some non-home-rule municipalities are subject to tax caps under the Illinois Property Tax Extension Law Limit.

Of the proposed fiscal 2016 savings, almost half, or $2.9 billion, would come from retirement benefit cuts. These consist mainly of pension reforms that Rauner’s team believes are more likely to withstand legal challenges than the state’s 2013 reforms now being challenged in court.

- Posted by Rich Miller   42 Comments      


Question of the day

Tuesday, Feb 24, 2015

* Would you like to see Mayor Emanuel win a majority and avoid a runoff today, or would you like to see him forced to deal with a runoff?

Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


customer survey

- Posted by Rich Miller   121 Comments      


Afternoon precinct reports

Tuesday, Feb 24, 2015

* Sun-Times

A surge in early voters over the weekend was not reflected in turnout at some polling places on a frigid Election Day morning.

Some veteran poll watchers say the pace of voters was very slow. At Kelvyn Park Public School, for instance, in the 31st Ward, there had been just half a dozen voters by 8 a.m.

“It’s been a quiet start to the morning so far,” Langdon D. Neal, chairman of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, told reporters Tuesday morning.

As Pat Quinn and the Democrats found out last year, more early voters does not necessarily mean more voters. Regular voters are getting to like this early voting thing.

What’s happening by you?

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


Consider the source

Tuesday, Feb 24, 2015

* Sneed

Is [Drew Peterson], who is serving a 38-year prison sentence for murdering his third wife, Kathleen Savio — and the prime suspect in the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson — the victim of a setup on recent charges that he plotted to have his prosecutor, Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, murdered?

Sneed has learned that Joel Brodsky, who was Peterson’s lead attorney in the Savio murder trial, has sent a letter to Randolph County Public Defender James W. Kelley, claiming he recently received two letters from an Illinois Department of Corrections inmate “that would indicate that Mr. Peterson was the victim of a setup, and was entrapped into committing the offense of solicitation of murder.” […]

Brodsky withdrew from Drew Peterson’s murder case following a public feud with his co-attorney Steve Greenberg, who is now part of a panel of attorneys representing Peterson on appeal.

* This Brodsky gentleman is quite, um, interesting. After Peterson was charged with the alleged plot on Glasgow, Brodsky sent out a statement to the media, which was forwarded to me by CBS 2…

If the allegations against Mr. Peterson are true, and they are only allegations at this time, it is an expression of Mr. Peterson’s frustration with the representation he is receiving in his appeal by his appellate attorney Steven Greenberg. If Mr. Peterson believed in his appeal, he wouldn’t commit such an act, if he did what he is alleged to have done. When I represented Drew, we may have done things that were controversial, but we always discussed everything and there was a reason for everything we did. When he was in jail prior to his trial, I kept in frequent contact with him so that he knew I was constantly working on his behalf.

If the current allegations against Mr. Peterson are true, in my opinion, the actions are a result of Attorney Steve Greenberg’s failure to control his client, and his failure to keep his client informed and focused on his legal options, his appeal, and other post-conviction remedies. In my opinion, if Mr. Peterson committed the acts he is accused of, it is a result of his frustration at not being well represented by Attorney Steve Greenberg.

Whew.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      


OK, but…

Tuesday, Feb 24, 2015

* This could be a good idea

[Rep. Frank Mautino] is backing legislation to protect victims of sexual abuse by expanding prosecutors’ ability to file charges against alleged rapists.

The measure calls for lengthening the statute of limitations in rape cases. Currently, the statute of limitations begins once the crime is committed. Under the bill Mautino supports, the clock on the statute of limitations would not begin until the evidence from the rape is collected, transmitted and analyzed by the Illinois State Police.

“Sexual assaults are hideous crimes that can leave victims traumatized for the rest for their lives. Their emotional pain is made worse when their attackers can’t even be arrested and held accountable,” Mautino said. “Victims must be given every opportunity to see their attackers brought to justice.”

* Again, that’s all well and good, but first you gotta get prosecutors to bring charges. The Belleville News-Democrat looked at the 32-county southern Illinois region and found some shocking stats

(T)housands of women, teenage girls and children in a 32-county area of Southern Illinois told police they were sexually violated by someone they trusted: a friend, an ex-boyfriend or a family member.

Authorities did not prosecute seven out of 10 of these sex crime suspects from 2005-13, even though victims were able to identify their attackers 95 percent of the time, according to a Belleville News-Democrat investigation.

While national attention has focused on rape on college campuses and in the military, a review of more than 1,000 police reports and 15,000 pages of court records showed that failure to bring sex crime suspects to court was widespread throughout Southern Illinois during the nine-year period ending in 2013, the latest figures available. […]

    • Of 6,744 felony sex crimes reported to police across the region, 70 percent, or 4,721 cases, never made it to a courtroom. […]

    • The overall chance that a felony sex crime suspect would go to prison was one in 10. When suspects were prosecuted, the conviction rates generally ranged from 55 to 85 percent.

    • Some cities with the largest police departments and most investigators had the highest number of felony sex crimes reported but some of the lowest prosecution rates: East St. Louis, 7 percent, Carbondale, 8 percent and Belleville, 18 percent.

    • Women 18 or older accounted for 31 percent of sex crime victims, according to a review of 1,070 felony police investigative reports. But an analysis of court records showed that adults accounted for only 17 percent of sex crime prosecutions.

    • The prosecution rate of felony sex crimes in Madison County was more than double that in St. Clair County — 38 to 18 percent, respectively — even though they border one another and are nearly identical in population.

* AP

(C)onviction rates overall were relatively high for the cases that were prosecuted. Some experts suggest that means prosecutors are taking only cases they’re sure they can win.

“They do their work on a case-by-case basis — and their biases about what is a winnable case plays out over and over again, and the number of cases that don’t move forward just keep adding up,” said Rebecca Campbell, a professor at Michigan State University’s Research Consortium on Gender-based Violence.

* The BND has published a long series on this topic. From another story

Of 62 felony sex crime cases from 2005-09 where local police departments in 18 Southern Illinois counties asked the State Police for help:

    • ISP investigated all of these cases and sent 34 to local prosecutors, who rejected 31 of them.

    • Of the 31 rejected cases, 26 involved victims younger than age 13.

    • In the three cases that were prosecuted, all involved a confession

* Another

Thomas W. Smith drove too fast, didn’t wear his seat belt and beat his wife. Details of his convictions for the traffic offenses and domestic battery are available at the Union County Courthouse for anyone to examine.

But a county judge ruled that his conviction in 2008 for raping an 11-year-old girl should be kept secret, despite provisions in the Illinois Constitution that generally protect juveniles but require court records to be open for adults charged or convicted of crimes.

In Union County, that wasn’t always the case.

At least 39 felony cases, most involving sex crimes, were removed from 2007-13 by court order. Even the circuit clerk’s computerized records, known as a manifest, that include the case number, defendant’s name and description of the crime were hidden from the public.

* Another

Campus police investigated 41 complaints of criminal sexual assault, or rape, and 11 allegations of felony sexual abuse from 2005-13 at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, which has an enrollment of about 18,000 students.

Yet, only five of these 52 reported felony sex crimes, or 10 percent, ended up in a courtroom.

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      


What the heck?

Tuesday, Feb 24, 2015

* From the Guardian

The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.

Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse, include:

    * Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.
    * Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
    * Shackling for prolonged periods.
    * Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.
    * Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.

At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead. […]

Unlike a precinct, no one taken to Homan Square is said to be booked. Witnesses, suspects or other Chicagoans who end up inside do not appear to have a public, searchable record entered into a database indicating where they are, as happens when someone is booked at a precinct. Lawyers and relatives insist there is no way of finding their whereabouts. Those lawyers who have attempted to gain access to Homan Square are most often turned away, even as their clients remain in custody inside.

“It’s sort of an open secret among attorneys that regularly make police station visits, this place – if you can’t find a client in the system, odds are they’re there,” said Chicago lawyer Julia Bartmes.

Go read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   84 Comments      


Credit Union (noun) – volunteer led, locally owned, democratically controlled cooperatives

Tuesday, Feb 24, 2015

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Unlike most other financial institutions, credit unions do not issue stock or pay dividends to outside stockholders. Instead, earnings are returned to members in the form of lower loan rates, higher interest on deposits, and lower fees. Board members serve voluntarily.

Speaking of volunteering, the credit union “People Helping People” philosophy motivates credit unions to get involved in countless community charitable activities and worthwhile causes. A credit union’s goal is to serve all members well, including those of modest means - every member counts.

Credit unions exist solely for this reason, not to make a profit. Members know their credit union will be there for them in challenging times, as well as good – which is the reason why members are so fiercely loyal.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


It’s just a bill, part infinity…

Tuesday, Feb 24, 2015

* This bill has been getting a lot of play

A measure introduced in the Illinois legislature would make students pay back certain tuition breaks from the state if they leave Illinois within five years of graduation.

The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reported the legislation would affect the Monetary Award Program, which serves about 140,000 lower income students. It’s part of a package of legislation sponsored by state Sen. Chapin Rose, a Republican from Mahomet.

Under the proposal, students receiving grants through the program would also have to graduate within four years and wouldn’t be able to get a grant the year after they flunk out.

“I hope that it’s not too drastic or draconian,” Rose said. “I hope it would serve as an incentive.”

I dunno. I guess I see the point here, but it seems a bit over the top. Your thoughts?

* Meanwhile

An Illinois State Senator is sponsoring a bill that would tighten the rules for parents who wish to exempt their children from vaccination requirements due to medical reasons or religious beliefs.

State Senator John Mulroe says the legislation is being pushed in response to a recent measles outbreak. Under the measure, parents seeking a medical exemption must file an objection form with the signature of the child’s medical provider.

For parents seeking exemption due to religious beliefs, they must submit an objection form with a religious official’s notarized “religious exemption statement.” Under the state’s current law, parents only need to submit a statement that details their religious objection.

If you’re gonna have a religious exemption, I’m not sure you can require such a statement, but I could be wrong.

* In other news, Sen. Daniel Biss is sponsoring some ACLU legislation. From a press release…

An effort to place modest regulations around the use of powerful automatic license plate readers (ALPRs) in Illinois began with the filing of Senate Bill 1753 by State Senator Daniel Biss. ALPR systems consist of cameras mounted on police cars or a pole, where the cameras scan and “read” the license plate number of every car that passes. The plate number is recorded and stored with the precise location. The plate number is then compared against police and other government databases.

ALPR systems allow police and other government agencies to create a record of where a particular car has been at a particular moment, over an extended period of time. Today, this power is completed unregulated in Illinois.

Currently, there are no regulations governing the use of or retention of data from ALPRs in Illinois. The devices were recently embroiled in controversy when it was revealed that the two federal agencies were working together to gather information about every person who attended (and drove their automobiles) to firearm shows in Arizona. The ACLU of Illinois reported two years ago that the technology was being used in a growing number of communities across Illinois – again, without any regulation.

“ALPRs can play an important role for law enforcement,” said Senator Biss in announcing the filing of the bill. “But like any tool, it must not be used in an unchecked fashion. This measure proposes modest guidelines that will ensure that this law enforcement tool does not evolve into a broad surveillance system.”

Senate Bill 1753 would regulate ALPRS to prevent abuse in the following ways:

    • Limit the purposes for which ALPRs can be used to enforcing the collection of tolls, traffic violations and parking, controlling access to secure areas and conducting on-going criminal investigations;
    • ALPRs also would be allowed for identifying vehicles that are reported stolen, unregistered or relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation, or identifying persons who are missing or the subject of a warrant.
    • Data collected by ALPRs must be destroyed after 30 days unless there is a need to keep the information and it cannot be shared with other government agencies unless there is a court order;
    • Regulates the use of private ALPR data by law enforcement; and,
    • Requires police agencies with ALPR systems to adopt and post policies, notifying the public about how they are working to ensure privacy.

Recent reports indicate that several law enforcement agencies, including the DEA and the ATF, have begun to use ALPRs widely. In response, a number of states have enacted legislation to regulate the use of this technology.

* And…

llinois state senators are being asked to “put patients first,” protecting the health care needs of patients across the State. Senate Bill 1564, sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss, modifies a current Illinois law that permits doctors, nurses and other health care providers to deny information and health care based on the providers’ religious beliefs. A recent poll of Illinois voters reveals that a strong majority want the law to be changed.

“Patients facing an array of health care needs suffer when doctors or hospitals refuse to provide information or health care based on the providers’ religious beliefs,” said Lorie Chaiten with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois in announcing support for the legislation. “Unfortunately, current state law protects this practice, and it is time for that to change.”

The ACLU notes that the law in question is the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act, a measure adopted in the 1970s. Three years ago, an Illinois appellate court ruled that under this law, the religious beliefs of a health care provider trumped the medical needs of patients. That decision came in the case of a handful of pharmacists who objected to dispensing certain contraceptives on religious grounds. But the law has other, real world consequences.

Religious restrictions that limit patient care are often applied to rape victims in need of emergency contraception, women facing difficult pregnancies and families facing end-of-life decisions. For example, the ACLU has heard from women in Illinois who have sought treatment at religiously-affiliated hospitals while miscarrying. These women are not only denied treatment because of religious restrictions, but are often deprived of the information they need to understand how best to protect their health and future fertility and where they can go to get the care the religious hospital is refusing to provide.

“When I treat my patients, my medical training and ethics require that I put my patients first — not my own views,” said Maura Quinlan, MD, an obstetrician gynecologist in the Chicago suburbs and Chair of the Illinois Section of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “Denying information based on one’s own religious beliefs turns basic medical ethics on its head. This is very dangerous.” added Dr. Quinlan.

Under Senate Bill 1564, health care providers can assert religious objections to providing care and information, but must put in place protocols designed to ensure that the patient gets the information needed to make an informed medical decision. The protocols must address how the provider will ensure that the patient is informed about their treatment options and where to get the needed care, and that the patient’s health is not impaired as a result of the provider’s objection.

* And speaking of Biss

State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) has introduced legislation (SB0037) that would give all state and local candidates in Illinois two hours of free campaign air time in the month before any election on public broadcast and educational channels. Biss told WCIA that “If everyone’s already on TV for a couple of hours, that becomes a baseline that reduces the value of all the other time that’s put in and all the other funds that are raised.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   53 Comments      


A look at the proposed revenue sharing cuts

Tuesday, Feb 24, 2015

* Greg Hinz looks at the governor’s proposed cuts to local government funding

In a nice little file posted on its website, Voices for Illinois Children, a Chicago-based advocacy group, combined state records with Rauner’s proposal to detail—town by town, county by county and city by city—just how much each of 1,400 local governments stands to lose in the year that begins July 1 if lawmakers adopt the governor’s proposal.

As previously reported, the total, $634 million, is impressive enough. But for those familiar with municipal budgets, the breakdown is meaningful.

For instance, though Chicago leads the list as expected with a potential $133.2 million hole punched in its budget, dozens of Chicago suburbs stand to lose more than $1 million each.

Algonquin would lose $1.5 million, Arlington Heights $3.7 million, Batavia $1.3 million and Berwyn $2.8 million. Bolingbrook would take a $3.6 million hit, Glenview $2.2 million, Hanover Park $1.9 million, Woodstock $1.2 million, Evanston $3.7 million, Oak Park $2.6 million, Schaumburg $3.7 million and Naperville $7 million.

At the county level, Cook would lose $5.2 million, DuPage $4.8 million, Kane $3.0 million, Lake $4.1 million and Will $5.2 million.

You can see the entire list by clicking here.

And if you want to watch a really harsh Daily Herald video editorial about the proposal, click here. Wow.

…Adding… Just for fun, you might wanna click here and read a resolution passed by the Downers Grove village board in 2011 blasting a proposal to slash municipal revenue sharing. The village’s mayor at the time was Ron Sandack, who is now one of Gov. Rauner’s fiercest fiscal defenders.

- Posted by Rich Miller   93 Comments      


Today’s quotable

Tuesday, Feb 24, 2015

* From today’s Tribune editorial

Thus far, Gov. Bruce Rauner hasn’t made an Illinois right-to-work law his priority. And with so many union-friendly Democrats (and some Republicans) in his legislature, we don’t know that he will.

Was the edit board on vacation in January and early February? Did they miss his State of the State address?

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      


Morning municipal election report

Tuesday, Feb 24, 2015

* What’s going on in your neck of the woods?

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      


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Tuesday, Feb 24, 2015

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