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*** UPDATED x2 - 9 Indy CEOs demand changes - Wilco bites Indiana *** Indiana bites back

Monday, Mar 30, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* A spokesperson for Indiana’s governor responds to Mayor Emanuel’s harsh criticism of that state’s new “religious freedom” law

“We value every business here in Indiana. Our businesses want to be here because Indiana is a great place to do business—far better than Illinois by just about any measure.

“The current issue is a matter of intense and ongoing debate,” she adds, referring to talk of “clarifying” the law. “The governor’s office is leading all efforts with regard to that issue.”

Indeed, Indiana is a particularly good place to do business right now if you hate gays.


*** UPDATE 1 *** Apparently, Indiana is not such a great place for the concert promotion business

The indie folk rock heroes of Wilco have canceled a May 7 concert in Indianapolis following the controversial passage of the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act. […]

In a Monday statement on the band’s Facebook page, Wilco wrote:

    “We are canceling our May 7 show at the Murat in Indianapolis. The “Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act” feels like thinly disguised legal discrimination to us. Hope to get back to the Hoosier State someday soon, when this odious measure is repealed. Refunds available at point of purchase.”

“I guess all this history, it’s just a mystery to me.”

…Adding… Indy Star

A labor union that represents public employees will pull its October conference for women out of Indianapolis, making it the first convention to pull out of the city because of objections to a new religious freedom law.

The AFSCME, which represents nurses, corrections officers, child care workers and sanitation workers, among others, said its decision is a direct result of Gov. Mike Pence signing into law a bill that its press release says “legalizes discrimination.”

“This un-American law allowing businesses to refuse service to gay and lesbian customers sets Indiana and our nation back decades in the struggle for civil rights,” AFSCME President Lee Saunders said in a statement.

The conference was due to bring 700 to 900 people to Indianapolis from all over the country for a three-day conference based at the JW Marriott Indianapolis. (Union officials clarified their statement earlier Monday that the conference was to be based at another hotel). Union officials have not decided upon a new city for the conference.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Indy Star

Top executives at nine major Indiana companies today called on Gov. Mike Pence and legislative leaders to reform the newly passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act so it can’t be used to “justify discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity.” […]

“Regardless of the original intention of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, we are deeply concerned about the impact it is having on our employees and on the reputation of our state,” the letter says. […]

Jon Mills, spokesman for Cummins Inc. CEO John Linebarger, said changing the RFRA legislation likely will involve introducing a new amendment or stripping part of an existing bill to insert language that would modify the RFRA. […]

Other executives signing the letter were Bill Oesterle, CEO of Angie’s List; Joseph Swedish, CEO of Anthem; Jeff Smulyan, CEO of Emmis Communications; Dan Evans, CEO of Indiana University Health; Jack Phillips, CEO of Roche Diagnostics; John Lechleiter, CEO of Eli Lilly and Co.; and Tim Hassinger, CEO of Dow AgroSciences.


Tracy takes herself out of Schock replacement bid

Monday, Mar 30, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From a press release…

Jil Tracy, retired Illinois State Representative and Lieutenant Governor Candidate in the 2014 Republican Primary released the following statement:

“I am announcing today that, after much thoughtful discussion with my family, I am not going to seek the Republican nomination for the 18th Congressional District.

We gave careful consideration to all aspects of the upcoming race. I conferred with Gov. Rauner, and while he has not yet made the official timeline of the special election cycle public, I have decided that my family obligations will not fit with the requirements of running a vigorous campaign in an abbreviated cycle. Concluding that, I want to make my intentions public as quickly as possible so the constituents of the district can decide who will best serve us in Congress.

I’m grateful and humbled by the outpouring of encouragement and support I have gotten over the past 2 weeks, and I am quite certain that my public service is not over. I will continue doing my best to make sure that our region stays a place where we fight government overreach and wasteful spending, where we embrace fiscal responsibility, where we support the family, promote education, agribusiness, and commerce, and where we are unwavering in defense of our constitutional rights.”

* Meanwhile

For Dan Brady, winning a seat in Congress would mean he would have to step down as a partner in a Bloomington-Normal funeral home.

“That is a consideration,” Dan Brady said Monday of the federal rules regarding outside employment by members of Congress.

For Ed Brady, it would mean an end to his climb up the leadership ladder of the National Association of Homebuilders, where he is on track to become the leader of the organization within the next eight months.

“It does weigh on my commitment,” Ed Brady told the Quad-City Times Springfield bureau.


This is how it starts

Monday, Mar 30, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* It sure looks like a good bill

A proposal designed to ensure people are trained to take care of recently hospitalized loved ones is moving forward in the Illinois General Assembly.

The legislation, proposed by Republican state Sen. Chapin Rose of Mahomet, was approved unanimously in the Senate Thursday and now heads to the House.

“The big key here is, when someone is discharged from the hospital, we will give training to their caregiver to make sure they get good after-care,” Rose said.

The legislation asks the patient to identify a loved one as a caregiver. The hospital then contacts the caregiver before the patient is released and explains to the caregiver how to properly take care of the patient.

How could you not support that? I don’t know what it’ll cost, but it appears worth a look and the unanimous Senate vote shows legislators solidly support it.

* Just keep in mind that most of the targeted programs on Gov. Rauner’s Fiscal Year 16 chopping block began life exactly like this one: with unanimous or nearly unanimous legislative votes.

It’s one reason why the budget has grown to this point (although by far not the biggest reason, which would be the state finally making its required pension payments along with the growth in education, Medicaid and public safety costs), but it’s also why these small programs are so difficult to eliminate. Everybody wants them. But too few want to find the money to actually pay for them.

…Adding… AARP just called to say the bill doesn’t cost the state anything. It’s a mandate on hospitals.

I’ve been thinking about the original point for a few days, but then I picked the wrong darned bill to illustrate it. Oops.

Nevertheless, we can still talk about the broader point here.


*** UPDATED x1 - Rauner responds *** Fritchey, Emanuel double-team Rauner on “right to work” zones

Monday, Mar 30, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From a press release…

Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey (D-12) and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel today announced a two-pronged effort in opposition to Governor Bruce Rauner’s attempt to weaken organized labor, saying that the Governor’s right to work proposal would harm working families by causing lower wages and fewer opportunities. Fritchey has introduced a county resolution in opposition to the Governor’s request that local municipalities take action to support the local right to work zone. Mayor Emanuel intends to introduce a measure indicating Chicago’s opposition to the Governor’s efforts at the next City Council meeting.

“This country has seen the shrinking of the middle class as good, secure jobs and worker protections continue to disappear while more and more families find themselves struggling to make ends meet,” Commissioner Fritchey said. “The Governor’s right to work proposal is a thinly-veiled attempt to dismantle unionized labor organizations which have historically protected the rights and safety of the working and middle class. Prosperity in the middle class is what will make this state and our county fully recover from the our past economic difficulties, not laws making it easier for businesses to underpay and undervalue their employees.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been a vocal opponent of the Governor’s proposed right to work zones. “I commend Commissioner Fritchey for his efforts at the county level and I intend to work with the City Council to urge them to send a clear message against any efforts that would harm the working men and women of our city,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Under my tenure as Mayor, Chicago will never be a right to work zone because that’s a race to the bottom, and it would be a devastating hit to Chicago’s middle class.”

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan released an opinion last week declaring that the concept of local right to work zones presented by Governor Rauner would violate federal labor law, stating in part that “current law does not authorize the creation, through the passage of a referendum, of “right to work” zones or local areas wherein union security agreements will not be recognized.”

“Local right to work zones are illegal and the Illinois Attorney General has confirmed that. We appreciate Commissioner John Fritchey and Mayor Rahm Emanuel reinforcing that with these resolutions and are hopeful that their colleagues support their efforts,” said Michael T. Carrigan, President of the Illinois AFL-CIO. “While Governor Rauner continues his obsessive quest to destroy collective bargaining, it is important that our elected officials stand up in opposition. Maybe then, Rauner will concentrate on the real pressing issues of our state, not the ideological agenda of his corporate friends.”

Commissioner Fritchey intends to call his resolution for a vote at this Wednesday’s County Board meeting. The next City Council meeting is April 15, 2015.

* From Fritchey’s resolution

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Cook County Board of Commissioners hereby opposes the proposal to create local right to work zones in Illinois as such action would violate current federal and state laws and would negatively impact collective bargaining and hurt hard-working middle- class employees and their families in Illinois; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that in light of the current federal and Illinois laws, the Cook County Board of Commissioners urges local government subdivisions within Cook County to refrain from considering and adopting resolutions asking the Illinois Legislature to allow local right to work zones.

* By the way, the News-Gazette has been asking Champaign mayoral candidates about the governor’s proposed local right to work resolutions. But other media outlets around the state have pretty much ignored the whole topic. With elections coming up, you’d think that would be news-worthy.

There has been a bit of a debate surrounding the topic in the Springfield mayoral race, but it hasn’t been much of media priority.

*** UPDATE *** Rauner response

A Rauner spokeswoman says some parts of Chicago and Cook County have “outrageously high unemployment” and establishing the zones would make them more attractive to job creators.


Meanwhile, in Missouri

Monday, Mar 30, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Post-Dispatch

When more people quit their jobs, economists view that as a good thing. It’s a sign of an improving job market when people can put in their two weeks to move on to a better gig.

That in turn puts pressure on employers to raise wages to hold on to workers. But what happens when you’re a huge employer with a tight budget and you don’t want to raise pay?

Welcome to Missouri government, where some of the lowest-paid state employees in the nation are leaving their jobs at the highest rate since 2005, a year when hundreds of state workers lost or quit their jobs amid a budget shortfall. […]

Voluntary turnover, which excludes terminations and retirements, reached 11.1 percent, the highest it’s been for at least a decade. […]

The turnover rate for the more than 1,400 children’s service worker positions last year was 28 percent. For entry level service workers, who are typically paid about $15 an hour, voluntary turnover was 36 percent.

Missouri has consistently been at or near the bottom of public worker wages, while Illinois is ranked in the top ten. Missouri public employees received a 1 percent pay hike this year.


Question of the day

Monday, Mar 30, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* With last week’s bipartisan passage of the Fiscal Year 2015 budget patch, what is your outlook for the Fiscal Year 2016 challenge? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.



Rauner “troubled” by new Indiana law

Monday, Mar 30, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I asked the governor’s office if Gov. Rauner had made or would make any comments on Indiana’s new law allowing corporations and individuals to discriminate against gays and others based on their religious beliefs…

Hi, Rich:

Here is what the governor said on the issue in Peoria last night in a media avail:

    Question: Any thoughts on what’s going on in Indiana right now regarding the religious freedom restoration act?

    “I’ve read a bit about it; I have to say I’m troubled by what I read, but I would have to learn more before I can really comment.”

Further, legislation like this is not on our agenda.


Dold doubles down on Schock money

Monday, Mar 30, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Congressman Bob Dold still refuses to jettison disgraced Congressman Aaron Schock’s $10,000 campaign contribution. From the National Journal

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has already called on Republicans who accepted money from Schock to return their contributions, specifically highlighting Dold and other vulnerable House Republicans.

Dold spokeswoman Danielle Hagen said that “not one penny of these contributions remain in Congressman Dold’s account.”

What, did Schock donate with marked $100 bills or something?

Oh, come on, man. Your campaign committee is now $10,000 ahead of where it would’ve been had it not been for that Schock contribution.

Give it away now.


More budget details begin to emerge

Monday, Mar 30, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Whenever the General Assembly rams through complicated, lengthy legislation in a day or three, it usually takes the media a few more days to catch up

Under the plan, spending on general state aid to schools would be slashed by $150 million in the final three months of the fiscal year.

The plan does give Rauner access to a $97 million slush fund to dole out to schools who are having trouble making it to the end of the year.

But, there are no guidelines for how that money can be spent.

That has some downstate lawmakers worried the whole thing was designed to allow Rauner to simply funnel the money to Chicago public schools.

According to a spreadsheet I obtained from the Illinois State Board of Education, Chicago is on pace to run short of funds before the fiscal year ends, meaning it could potentially qualify for some of the money.

* And

Stolen vehicle task forces around the state are shutting down offices instead of chop shops as new state budget strategies siphon mandatory insurance fees from police work into the state’s gaping budget hole.

Some of the six auto theft task forces in the state have been around since 1992, one year after statute created a $1-per-policy car insurance fee to fund police teams dedicated to car theft investigations. The money frequently reimbursed salaries for agencies that contributed manpower to the task forces.

But an executive order Gov. Bruce Rauner issued Jan. 12 froze that pool of money, along with hundreds of millions of dollars in other state funds deemed nonessential spending.

The General Assembly approved a measure last week that sweeps more than $1 billion from various accounts into the state’s general fund, including $6 million in auto theft task force grants — roughly a year of income for the groups derived not from tax dollars but from insurance premiums.

* And

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s signed budget fix will end in a $1.7 million cut for Illinois State University in the last months of its fiscal year.

Through the original appropriation bill, ISU was supposed to receive $74 million for this current fiscal year from the state.

According to Chief of Staff Jay Groves, the signed budget cut was about 2.25 percent of the original budget, which brought the budget down to about $72.3 million.


*** UPDATED x1 - Announcement video released *** A somewhat odd Duckworth rollout

Monday, Mar 30, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The conventional wisdom was that Congresscritter Tammy Duckworth would wait until after the municipal elections to announce her US Senate candidacy. Apparently, that was wrong

Rep. Tammy Duckworth D-Ill., will announce a 2016 Senate bid likely on Monday, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned. She is aiming to win the Democratic nomination to run against Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill.

On Monday evening, Duckworth gathers some of her top donors at a home in the Hancock Center in Chicago to discuss securing the Democratic nomination to run against Kirk, who is seeking a second term.

* The original headline was changed on the article, from she’s doing it on Monday, to she’s “likely” announcing on Monday. Not sure why, but check out Greg Hinz’s experiences

As the Sun-Times reported the other day, Tammy Duckworth, the Democratic congresswoman from Hoffman Estates who has been pondering a race against Kirk next year, has a big fundraiser March 30 at the Hancock Center in Chicago.

That has sparked chatter today [Friday] that Duckworth definitely has decided to run and might announce so on Monday.

That appears to be wrong, or at least preliminary.

Said her spokesman, “She will not be meeting reporters or speaking publicly on Monday except at her fundraiser, which is closed (to the) press.” Obviously, it’s kind of hard to announce a candidacy without the media there to spread the news.

* And then a 4 pm update

The Sun-Times says Duckworth will announce Monday. But her office is refusing to confirm that report, and previously had pretty much denied to me that she would do so then.

So, she’s “likely” announcing today, but won’t appear in public or talk to the media at all?

And what’s up with misleading reporters?

* Kirk response…

“Senator Mark Kirk is an independent voice for Illinois and is proud of his bipartisan record of achievement in the United States Senate,” said Kirk spokeswoman Alissa McCurley. “While he looks forward to a vigorous campaign, the Senator believes there will be plenty of time for politics, and he is focused on fighting for veterans who have not received the treatment and respect they have earned from our government, as well as advocating for policies that encourage economic growth and job creation.”

* And the IL GOP took the low road…

Chairman Tim Schneider issued the following statement:

“Rod Blagojevich protégé Tammy Duckworth is not the kind of partisan politician Illinois families want to represent them in the United States Senate. Duckworth represents the extreme wing of the Democrat party — voting with Nancy Pelosi 92% of the time. I have no doubt that next November, Illinois voters will re-elect Mark Kirk who has been a strong & independent voice for our state in Washington.”

*** UPDATE *** And away we go…

Rolling Meadows, IL – Today, Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (IL-08) announced her candidacy for the U.S. Senate. In a video message to supporters, Duckworth talks about her upbringing, service in the military, commitment to Illinois’ families and lays out her vision of leadership for the state.

“I’m running for the United States Senate in 2016 because it’s time for Washington to be held accountable and to put Illinois’ families and communities first,” said Duckworth. “I look forward to visiting your community soon, and if you elect me as Illinois’ Senator, I will fight my heart out to represent you with honor and integrity.”

Duckworth, a Blackhawk helicopter pilot, served in the Army Reserve Forces for 23 years until she announced her retirement at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 2014. She served as Director of the Illinois Department for Veteran Affairs from 2006-2009 and as an Assistant Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs from 2009-2011. Duckworth is currently in her second term as Representative of Illinois’ 8th Congressional District.

* Video

* Transcript…

Hi I’m Tammy Duckworth.

I’d like to tell you a little about myself.

I’m the daughter of a Marine, a wife, a new mom and a combat veteran.

When I was in High School, my dad lost his job at 55 and struggled with unemployment.

The bottom fell out for us. For a time, food stamps kept my brother and me from going hungry.

Graduating from college was a challenge, but I made it with help of loans, Pell grants and lots of waitressing.

That’s why I’ve always believed that if you don’t give up on yourself – our nation should never give up on you either.

Bryan and I met when we were both cadets in ROTC.

Later, I was given the opportunity to become a Blackhawk helicopter pilot and deployed to Iraq.

In 2004, while flying a combat mission near Bagdad, an RPG tore through our cockpit taking my legs and part of my arm with it.

The only reason I made it home was because of the heroism of my courageous buddies who risked their lives to save mine.

I view my time now as a bonus, and that has allowed me speak up without fear.

So when Congress failed to pass a budget, I sponsored the no budget no pay act and led by example - returning more than ten thousand dollars of my own pay to taxpayers and cutting a over a hundred thousand from my office budget.

I’m running for the United States Senate in 2016 because it’s time for Washington to be held accountable and to put Illinois’ families and communities first.

I believe that together we can build an America this is strong from the ground up.

We need more Pre-K.

We need college loans to be affordable.

And the engines of Illinois’ economy are small businesses and the middle-class – I believe we need tax cuts for them for a change.

I look forward to visiting your community soon, and if you elect me as Illinois’s Senator, I will fight my heart out to represent you with honor and integrity.

Thank you.


“If I ever leave here I hope never to return”

Monday, Mar 30, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to use a new Indiana law to poach some of its businesses

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is jumping into the flap over that controversial new Indiana “religious freedom” law, seeking to even up the score some after years in which the Hoosier state has raided jobs from Chicago and Illinois. And perhaps he’s trying to do himself some re-election good, too.

In letters to more than a dozen Indiana-based firms, Emanuel writes that the law will subject gays and lesbians to “new discrimination,” harming both them and Indiana’s ability to attract top talent. And that, he concludes, is a good reason to consider shifting business and even their headquarters to Chicago, “a welcoming place.” […]

The law Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed last week and which he yesterday said would not be repealed “threatens Indiana’s 21st century economic resurgence by taking the state back to the 1960s,” the letter says.

“But (Chicago’s) great strength is the quality of our workforce and the fact that Chicago is a welcoming place,” the letter continues. “Today, you cannot succeed in the global economy if you discriminate against your residents by treating them as second class citizens.

“As Gov. Pence changes state law to take Indiana backwards, I urge you to look next door.”

* Meanwhile, our neighbor to the east has been comparing its new law to Illinois statutes. They’re missing something, however. The Tribune explains

When Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a new state law that allows people and companies to claim a religious objection to doing business with same-sex couples, he pointed to Illinois and Kentucky, saying he was simply bringing the state in line with its neighbors.

But the Republican governor and possible presidential contender left out an important fact. While Illinois does have a law that gives special protections to religious objectors, it also bans discrimination based on sexual orientation. Indiana, on the other hand, has no such ban.

That distinction is crucial, legal experts say, because anti-discrimination laws are considered stronger than religious exemptions.

* Equality Illinois…


Statement by Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois

Equality Illinois denounces new laws in Indiana and under consideration in other states allowing the use of religious beliefs to discriminate and refuse service to LGBT people and other minorities, and rejects comparisons to the religious freedom law in Illinois.

We oppose legalized discrimination in Indiana under the guise of religious freedom. We are gravely concerned the new law will be used as an excuse to discriminate against the LGBT community there or anyone who visits, works, conducts business, or must travel in the state.

In acting as if the new law is a benign effort at ensuring religious freedom, officials in Indiana, Arkansas and elsewhere have cited Illinois as one state that already has such laws. While a religious freedom law has been on the books in Illinois since 1998, that’s only half the story.

Both the Indiana and Illinois laws say there must be a compelling governmental interest to burden a person’s exercise of religion, but only Illinois provides that compelling governmental interest in the LGBT-inclusive Illinois Human Rights Act and an active Department of Human Rights to enforce it.

In contrast, Indiana’s law will take effect in a legal environment that provides no protections from discrimination against LGBT Hoosiers or visitors. Neither are there LGBT protections under Arkansas law.

Illinois has a rich history of ensuring the civil rights of all peoples, including the LGBT community. Since 2005, Illinois has prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment, and public accommodations. Illinois law addresses hate or bias crimes based on sexual orientation. Our LGBT students are protected by robust anti-bullying measures. And Illinois enacted marriage equality through the legislative process in 2013.

In Illinois, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and LGBT-inclusive provisions of the Human Rights Act have co-existed since 2005 and function to protect a person’s religious freedom while ensuring equal treatment of LGBT Illinoisans.

* Politifact offers up the ACLU’s opinion

Indiana’s law includes language that allows people to claim a religious freedom exemption “regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.”

That language is absent from the Illinois law.

“The Illinois law was written and designed to allow someone to change the government’s burdens on people’s religious beliefs,” said Eunice Rho, American Civil Liberties Union advocacy and policy counsel. “The Indiana law specifically says you can use the law in a lawsuit even if the government isn’t a party.”

Ultimately, judges will have to interpret the intent of the Indiana law’s language. But that doesn’t change that there are differences between it and the counterpart in Illinois.

* From the Human Rights Campaign…

In light of Indiana governor Mike Pence’s appearance on ABC’s This Week to tamp down a national outcry over his decision to sign viciously anti-LGBT S.B. 101 last week, the Human Rights Campaign issued the following statement from HRC President Chad Griffin:

“Governor Pence’s calls for a ‘clarification’ of this destructive bill are phony unless the legislation guarantees explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBT Hoosiers and includes a clear civil rights carve-out within the RFRA. If Governor Pence is right and he really doesn’t want to discriminate, he needs to prove it by protecting the LGBT residents and visitors truly at risk in Indiana. Anything less is a shameful face-saving measure.”

After criticism of the new law reached critical mass yesterday—including a statement from Indiana-based Angie’s List that they would be cancelling a planned $40 million expansion in the state in response to the new law—Governor Pence announced late last night that he would seek new legislation “clarifying” the law.

On This Week this morning, Pence offered scant details about any “clarification” legislation. He repeatedly refused to answer host George Stephanopoulos’s questions as to whether the law would allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT Hoosiers or whether discrimination against LGBT Hoosiers should be legal.

Today’s headline explained here.

…Adding… From comments…

The new Indiana law allows individuals, religious organizations, and businesses to seek judicial relief if a person’s religious exercise has been “substantially burdened, or is likely to be burdened…regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.” In contrast, Illinois law allows a person to seek judicial relief only against a government and only if that person’s exercise of religion has been burdened.

In Indiana, a private party can now claim religious rights in a legal dispute with another private party “regardless of whether the state or any governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.” Additionally, a private party in Indiana can now initiate a claim of violation if their religious rights are “likely to be substantially burdened.” The party doesn’t need to demonstrate actual harm. Neither scenario is allowed under Illinois law.

These are major expansions beyond what the IL law states.

Adding More… Another commenter pointed to this Atlantic piece, which is quite good

(T)he Indiana statute explicitly makes a business’s “free exercise” right a defense against a private lawsuit by another person, rather than simply against actions brought by government. Why does this matter? Well, there’s a lot of evidence that the new wave of “religious freedom” legislation was impelled, at least in part, by a panic over a New Mexico state-court decision, Elane Photography v. Willock. In that case, a same-sex couple sued a professional photography studio that refused to photograph the couple’s wedding. New Mexico law bars discrimination in “public accommodations” on the basis of sexual orientation. The studio said that New Mexico’s RFRA nonetheless barred the suit; but the state’s Supreme Court held that the RFRA did not apply “because the government is not a party.”

Remarkably enough, soon after, language found its way into the Indiana statute to make sure that no Indiana court could ever make a similar decision. Democrats also offered the Republican legislative majority a chance to amend the new act to say that it did not permit businesses to discriminate; they voted that amendment down.

But of course, this has nothing whatsoever to do with discrimination against gays!

Yeah. Right.

…Adding Even More… From comments…

While most of the discussion of the Indiana law has been on LGBT discrimination, the impact is really much broader. Indiana does have civil rights laws that forbid discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sex, and disability in employment, education, real estate transactions, and public accommodations. The new Indiana law will eliminate the ability of the state Civil Rights Commission to enforce any anti-discrimination laws, and of individuals to pursue state court discrimination claims, when the potential defendant says his/her/its motivation was religiously-based.


Schock’s breathtaking downfall

Monday, Mar 30, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

Congressman Aaron Schock’s resignation is not only a blow to national Republicans, for whom Schock raised millions, but also to Illinois Republicans.

Just eight weeks ago, Schock was widely believed to be next in line to chair the National Republican Congressional Committee. But his rapid fall from grace ruined his career and deprived the NRCC of a chance to project a far more youthful public image.

Needless to say, the Illinois House Republicans are heartbroken by this loss. Schock is a former state House member and he retained quite a bit of personal affection and even admiration by his onetime colleagues and staffers. But it’s the loss of his assistance which will be felt the most. Schock has been very helpful to the point of being almost indispensable to the House Republicans. He’s helped recruit candidates, raised money for them and helped them campaign. And he was quite successful.

Ever since he defeated a sitting Democratic Representative in a solidly Democratic district at the age of 23, Schock has been the HGOP’s wonder boy. And they’ve used his help and his model to win other districts, including state Reps. Adam Brown and Michael Unes, who both won Democratic-controlled districts with Schock’s assistance in 2010.

The Illinois Republicans don’t remember Schock as the jet-setting, rule-shortcutting playboy he became in Washington, DC. When he was in Springfield, Schock was rarely seen on the nightlife circuit, often traveling back to Peoria after the day’s session ended to meet with constituents. He was always a young man on a mission, and he seemed to fully understand back then that if he wanted to continue his meteoric rise up the political ladder, he had to make sure he was always in tune and in touch with the folks back home.

So, what the heck happened here?

Well, the Democrats probably didn’t do him any favors by drawing him the most Republican congressional district in the state. Schock did stay in touch with his constituents via regular trips back home, but with his political safety all but assured, he apparently no longer felt the need to be “in tune” with his district.

And his 24/7 fundraising meant he was constantly hanging out with wealthy people. Personally interacting with people who literally have money to burn can have an overwhelmingly intoxicating effect, particularly on somebody who has always personally striven to be rich. We saw much the same thing happen to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and former Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., who both lived well beyond their means in order to somehow keep up with their rich buddies.

Schock’s first job was in the 5th grade, doing database management for a chain of book stores. He was investing in the stock market when he was barely a teenager. When he was talking about running for governor a couple of years ago, he said if he lost he’d just go make lots of money. Schock was always confident in his own political and financial skills. He just knew he would reach the highest rungs of whatever ladder he climbed.

But that aborted bid for governor forced Schock to rethink his future and focus his sole attention on rising through the congressional ranks. He held a leadership post and looked like he had an eventual straight shot to the very top, but was sidetracked last year when his ally, Majority Leader Eric Cantor unexpectedly lost his primary election. He then set his sights on the NRCC, and the chairmanship was literally within his grasp.

The complacency caused by Schock’s safe GOP district and his realization that Congress was the only venue he’d probably ever have for stardom, his single-mindedness about how raising money was his only ticket to the top combined with his personal quest for wealth and his apparent need to emulate the lifestyles of the folks he was raising money from (plus whatever else happened that we don’t know about) all somehow led him to start cutting corners. And when you start doing that, it’s very difficult to stop. Indeed, it often leads to much worse things. Just ask Rod or Jesse.

And now, Schock is under federal investigation. The final chapter won’t be written on this book for quite a while. Hopefully, after this is all over, after he has paid his price (if any), Schock can put those truly amazing skills of his to work again for the people he once clearly loved.

He’s only 33 years old. He’ll have plenty of time to redeem himself.


Dogmatic nonsense

Monday, Mar 30, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My Crain’s Chicago Business column

I think we all have weirdly dogmatic friends.

You know the type. They are often intelligent, successful, open-minded, even kind until you get them on their “one topic” that turns them into crazy people.

Maybe it’s religion, or the Middle East, or President Barack Obama, or abortion, or climate change. Maybe it’s something as minor as the designated hitter rule.

All of a sudden, your friend turns into a raging, hissing monster, impervious to rational discussion. I’ve known plenty of people who are no longer on speaking terms with family members or longtime friends after enduring one too many of those uber-dogmatic freakouts.

That brings us to Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Go read the rest before commenting, please.

* And speaking of not listening to reason

But even the business groups that support right-to-work and empowerment zones say the governor can’t get that done.

“We’re supportive, but the political reality for a state right-to-work bill is zero,” said Kim Clarke Maisch, state director of the Illinois Federation of Independent Business. […]

Instead, business groups want to focus on traditional bread-and-butter issues such as workers’ compensation, minimum wage, tort reform and unemployment insurance costs, said Clarke Maisch.

“You want to focus on what you can get done,” said Clarke Maisch.

When even the NFIB is to your economic left, you know you’ve ventured too far afield.


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