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Friday, Apr 24, 2015

* The grass ain’t greener, the wine ain’t sweeter either side of the hill

Clank your chains and count your change

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Friday, Apr 24, 2015

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Today’s long story

Friday, Apr 24, 2015

* Garrett Brnger at Illinois Issues has a good story about the controversy over electronic license-plate readers

It doesn’t take much time at all, fractions of a second, to be marked and mapped, recorded and reported.

The automatic license plate reader cameras don’t look like much — just a pair of strobe lights on the back of a squad car, or maybe a cartoon character, depending on whom you ask.

“We had little kids call them ‘Wall-E,’” says Springfield Police Sgt. Charles Kean, whose department has been using the technology on two squad cars since 2013. The reference is to a lovable animated robot, the titular character from a 2008 Disney film.

But the mounted cameras are a little more formidable than that. Like many technologies available to law enforcement, they offer power that police praise and civil rights advocates consider warily. ALPRs, as they’re known, can scan and record thousands of license plates every hour. Comparing the plates to lists of stolen or otherwise flagged vehicles, the systems’ software sounds an alarm when there’s a match — giving police officers a handy technological edge in traffic enforcement.

“It’s impossible to remember 25,000 plates and cars and whatnot,” Kean says. With the ALPRs, there’s no need for officers to try.

Go read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      

Rauner approval rating: 40-36

Friday, Apr 24, 2015

* Progress Illinois

Forty percent of Illinois voters say they approve or strongly approve of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s job performance, according to a new Ogden & Fry poll released in light of the Republican’s first 100 days in office.

In a March 13 Ogden & Fry Poll taken after the governor’s first 60 days in office, Rauner’s approval rating was also at 40 percent. That’s down from a 43 percent approval rating Rauner garnered in a February Ogden & Fry survey.

Thirty-six percent of the 971 voters surveyed for the latest poll, conducted April 22 on behalf of the Illinois Observer, gave the governor a negative job approval rating. About 23 percent of the respondents were neutral or had no opinion on the governor. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.21 percent.

The poll is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   47 Comments      

AP and Chicago Tribune - Study: Exelon subsidy would cost $1.6B over 5 years

Friday, Apr 24, 2015

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

“I never did give them hell. I just told the truth, and they thought it was hell.”
- President Harry S. Truman

“A plan to financially reward Exelon Corp. for producing no-carbon energy and potentially save three Illinois nuclear plants from closure would cost ratepayers $1.6 billion over five years and strain budgets for financially strapped businesses and municipal governments, a study released Tuesday found.” - Associated Press, 4/21/15

By applying legislative mandates in SB 1585 / HB 3293 to historical data on Illinois electric costs and consumption, the Kestler Energy Consulting study simply calculated how much of a rate hike Exelon’s legislation would impose on families, businesses and local governments statewide.

Chicago Tribune: “Exelon-backed legislation could cost ratepayers $1.6B, study says”

Businesses and governments can learn how much the bailout would cost them at

Just say no to the Exelon bailout. Vote no on SB1585/HB3293.

BEST Coalition is a 501C4 nonprofit group of dozens of business, consumer and government groups, as well as large and small businesses. Visit

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Question of the day

Friday, Apr 24, 2015

* Which happens first?…

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

web survey

It’s Friday, so snark is heavily encouraged.

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Illinois Credit Unions – A Smarter Choice

Friday, Apr 24, 2015

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

In these uncertain times, it’s important to have a financial institution you can trust. Credit unions have been serving their members for more than a century, providing them with a member-owned, not-for-profit alternative to traditional banks.

Credit unions are different. They return profits back to their members in the form of lower rates and reduced fees. And because credit unions are member-owned and member directed, credit unions provide members with services they want, not products that will generate a tidy profit for a few investors.

Credit unions know their members. Loan decisions are made locally, not by bureaucrats and computer models from across the country. If you are a credit union member, you already know the credit union difference. If you are not a credit union member, go to to see which credit union can show you the advantage of credit union membership.

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Advertisers behaving badly

Friday, Apr 24, 2015

* Crain’s

Exelon’s downstate nuclear plant will see a revenue increase from a spike in downstate Illinois electricity bills, but it won’t come close to the $50 million that some critics and analysts have estimated.

Exelon said yesterday that its money-losing Clinton nuclear plant, which the company threatens to close without financial help from the state, will see $13 million in higher revenue in the year beginning June 1. That won’t solve Clinton’s financial problem.

“The results are not sufficient to make Clinton power station profitable,” Exelon said in a statement. […]

If Exelon had bid all of its capacity at the Clinton plant into the auction held by MISO, it would have seen a $50 million-plus windfall.

But Exelon already had sold more than half of Clinton’s output for the year beginning June 1 to other parties. And the company did not set the $150-per-megawatt-day clearing price that’s causing downstate electricity rates to soar.

So, Exelon makes a bad business decision and that’s a reason for a government bailout?


Also, Exelon contracted to sell three quarters of its Clinton nuke power to wholesale suppliers, many of them out-of-state. Yet, it continues to harp about how the Clinton nuclear plant is so vitally important to Illinois’ power supply system.

* Meanwhile

The CEO of Illinois’ second largest power generator is warning lawmakers that they will put downstate jobs at his company’s coal-fired power plants at risk if they approve Exelon’s proposal to hike electric bills statewide in order to provide more revenue to its Illinois nuclear fleet.

Bob Flexon, chief executive of Houston-based Dynegy, said that Illinois effectively will be sacrificing jobs downstate to protect jobs mainly in the northern half of the state if it agrees to subsidize Exelon to stave off threatened nuke closures.

“It’ll have a severe economic impact on jobs downstate,” he said in an April 22 interview. Dynegy’s plants will be “more at risk for shutdown.”

What he really means is he wants some nuke plants to close in order to drive up prices for Dynegy’s coal plants.

* And Exelon is sure making noises about that prospect

In the meantime, Dominguez said Exelon continues to demand action from Springfield on its bill in this legislative session. The electricity-rate spike downstate is prompting some to call on Exelon to delay the bill until the fall veto session to see how power markets develop. A similar capacity-price increase that would hike electric bills beginning in mid-2018 is forecasted for the regional grid that includes the Chicago area.

Exelon won’t agree to that, Dominguez said. “We need to have certainty one way or the other by the end of the session,” he said.

If this Exelon bid follows the usual corporate handout playbook, we’ll soon be seeing some sort of announcement about an imminent plant closure.

* Exelon is also putting the squeeze on local governments

The Clinton Nuclear Power Station and the Clinton Board of Education continue to be at odds over the value of the power station.

The value of the power station means a great deal to the Clinton Board of Education as they reap the benefits of the property taxes that come in from it. According to Dr. Jeff Holmes, Superintendent of Clinton Schools, the latest negotiations have been as productive as several before. […]

The taxing bodies will be entering into an appraisal process with the power plant. Dr. Holmes points out this has been done before and has found the value of the power plant is decreasing because of factors in the energy markets. It is the belief of the taxing bodies the decline in the value is not as drastic as Exelon officials say.

Exelon wants to lower the value of its plant from $217 million down to a mere $72 million.

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      

Your daily “right to work” roundup

Friday, Apr 24, 2015

* Once again, the governor’s office has no local “right to work” resolution results to report. Livingston County Board members decided last week to remove the Rauner resolution from its agenda, but hundreds of people showed up last night and the board allowed public comments

The twice-postponed Livingston County Board meeting finally took place within the Pontiac Township High School gymnasium Thursday evening, and the Board rolled right through its regular agenda.

The public commentary session near the end, however, doubled the length of the meeting as a number of union activists, of the hundreds filling the bleachers, spoke out against right-to-work, prevailing wage, and the encompassing Turnaround Agenda proposed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

The Turnaround Agenda advisory vote was taken off the County Board’s revised agenda for the rescheduled Thursday night meeting despite its appearance on the prior agenda.

Still, union workers filled the high school’s parking lot by 5 p.m., and shortly before the meeting took place an hour later, most filed into the building and squeezed into the bleachers of Crowley Gymnasium on either side of the County Board members, who stretched in a line at the south end of the gym.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** It’s just a bill…

Friday, Apr 24, 2015

* And it’s dead, for now

A bill restricting the use of electronic cigarettes in some indoor places will not be called for a vote after the sponsor decided to wait for regulation guidelines from the federal government.

Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Addison, sponsored House Bill 2404, which originally would have banned the use of electronic cigarettes, or “vaping,” indoors. After receiving a multitude of calls to her office and working with shop owners and industry professionals, Willis said she decided to amend the bill to only include schools and public places in government facilities.

Now, Willis said she is going to wait for the Food and Drug Administration to release its guidelines before moving forward on the legislation. Vaping products are not regulated at the federal level.

“The big thing is the FDA just came out last week saying they are ready to release their regulations on vaping products,” she said. “With that right on the horizon, it didn’t make sense to me to move forward with this bill.”

* I’m told the sponsor moved her bill yesterday over concerns about House attendance today, which is the passage deadine for bills on 3rd Reading. So, while there was some tension yesterday, it’s not really a sign of things to come. Those’ll get bad soon enough on their own accord

A measure the Department of Children and Family Services says creates a substantial new financial liability for the state passed the House Thursday with only 61 votes. And, passage of the measure provides at least one Republican representative with concerns of things to come for upcoming budget discussions. The measure would provide transitional and independent living programs, among other services, for people up to 21 years old. Despite several requests to hold the measure another day so lawmakers could work on several issues the Democratic majority voted in favor while 44 representatives voted present. After the vote, Republican Representative Barbara Wheeler says she’s worried that’s a sign of upcoming budget actions.

“It was, however, revealing how this budget process is going to proceed. Please don’t insult us anymore by asking us for bipartisan support. As my colleague from the supermajority just reminded me, “that’s just how it goes,” very disappointed.”

In a fiscal impact note for House Bill 3507 DCFS says the measure increases the state’s liability by possibly expanding the number of lawsuits that can be brought against the state, provides statutory requirements regarding $100 million in projected service expenditures, and disincentivizes youth from engaging in services. The measure now heads to the Senate.

*** UPDATE *** From the ACLU’s Ed Yohnka…

Noticed the post today with regard to DCFS services for youth ages 18 to 21 years-old. It is curious to see the Department refer to these services as a “new” financial responsibility. In fact, DCFS has been responsible for services for youth in this age cohort (when a juvenile court just finds the young person would continue to benefit from the continued protection/services, like education or mental health care, provided by DCFS) as part of a long-standing consent decree — the “B.H.” decree. In other words, the State long ago promised to provide these services. Nothing new here.


[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* First, pumpkin pie, now sweet corn

The Illinois Senate unanimously endorsed sweet corn to be the official state vegetable on Thursday.

State Sen. Sam McCann, R-Plainview, said the idea came from the fourth-grade classes at Chatham Elementary School south of the capital city as a way for them to learn about state government.

McCann said he has heard complaints that there are more important things to take care of in state government, like the budget. But he insisted sweet corn is important, as the fourth-grade classes watched from the Senate gallery.

“We have to invest in the future leaders of our state and nation,” McCann said. “And these young people took an extraordinary interest in the process.”

* From Illinois Review

The Illinois House of Representatives today approved Rep. David McSweeney’s (R-Barrington Hills) legislation to provide property tax relief for Illinois residents.

House Bill 178 passed the full House today by a vote of 75-37. The bill would help reduce skyrocketing property taxes here in Illinois by freezing the property tax levy for many townships for a one year period.

“Year after year, Illinois ranks near the bottom of the list of tax friendly states,” Rep. McSweeney stated. “My bill isn’t a cure-all, but it’s a first step that will be a welcome news for many Illinois families. Property tax relief is long overdue.”

* A bit harsh, but probably worth it

Former Gov. Pat Quinn’s 11th-hour solution to the violence plaguing Chicago’s streets would have been banned under a Republican initiative unveiled Wednesday.

At a press conference in the Capitol, Republican state Sen. Jason Barickman of Bloomington said governors and legislators would be banned from publicly promoting new programs and grants in the 60 days preceding an election.

The blackout period might have stopped Quinn’s 2010 Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, which was pitched by the Chicago Democrat as a way to combat violence in the state’s largest city.

Republicans have argued the $50 million program was actually a political slush fund designed to put taxpayer money in the hands of Quinn supporters in the lead-up to his 2010 victory against state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington.

* SJ-R

A proposal banning the sale of powdered caffeine in Illinois breezed through the Senate on Wednesday.

Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant’s Senate Bill 9 would ban the sale of pure, powdered caffeine to minors. The Shorewood Democrat’s bill passed without opposition. […]

Pure caffeine is typically used as a workout supplement. One teaspoon can contain the same amount of caffeine as 25 cups of coffee, potentially leading to heart failure.

It is currently unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration and can be purchased in bulk.

The bill passed unanimously.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      

Ford plant reaches 100,000 cop car milestone

Friday, Apr 24, 2015

* Good news

Ford’s Troy Design & Manufacturing operation isn’t as well known as the Dearborn, Mich.-based firm’s sprawling assembly plant on Torrence Avenue on the far Southeast Side of the city.

But the Troy facility, in part of a shared warehouse about a mile and a half east of the main assembly line, is where Ford autoworkers outfit police vehicles for use across the globe.

It’s at the Troy facility that the Interceptor sedans and sport-utility vehicles get the red-and-blue lights, hidden door locks, ballistic upgrades and other features that make them ready for police forces.

Yesterday, workers at the operation rolled the 100,000th vehicle they’ve customized in Chicago since the operation started up about three years ago through a bay door in the warehouse, pausing to commemorate the moment.

* And just the day before

In order to support American-made products, the House endorsed legislation Wednesday to require the state to buy vehicles assembled in North America.

State Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, who sponsored a similar proposal that failed to win support in the Senate last year, is the main proponent of the legislation.

“This is for the state of Illinois only. It does not include municipalities or any other governmental agencies,” Smiddy told his colleagues during a debate on the House floor.

The legislation requires the state to rent or buy vehicles assembled in North America, excluding Mexico. […]

Though the 70-42 vote was not a complete political split, many Republicans voted “no.”

The rollcall is here. Republicans voting for the bill included Brady, Bryant, Cabello, Moffitt and Sommer.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      

House approves marijuana tickets

Friday, Apr 24, 2015

* I’m not a fan of decriminalization because it does nothing to address the illegal supplier market. Legalization would yank the production and supply chain away from often violent criminals. But, hey, every little step in that direction is a good step and we shouldn’t be locking people in cages for smoking pot

A bill treating low-level marijuana possession charges similar to speeding tickets statewide passed the Illinois House on Thursday with bipartisan support.

The bill is the brainchild of Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, and would make possession of 15 grams of marijuana — or roughly half an ounce, the equivalent of about 30 joints — punishable by a fine of up to $125. It also would create protocol for a driving under the influence of marijuana charge. Offenders would have their records expunged of the possession offense after six months.

Cassidy said the bill would help alleviate some of the racial disparity involved in criminal sentencing as well as save the state money. The bill passed by a 62-53 vote. […]

The Illinois Department of Corrections estimated that Cassidy’s proposal would save the state about $30 million.

Rep. Ron Sandack, R-Downers Grove, supported the bill and said it is in line with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s platform of both reducing the prison population and cutting costs.

The rollcall is here. Most targets voted against the bill.

Republicans voting in favor included Butler, Cabello, Fortner, McDermed, McSweeney, Sandack and Tryon.

* Tribune

“I think police have been bogged down with petty possession crimes,” Sandack said. “I think courts have been bogged down with petty possession crimes. These people, they’re not dealers. They have no intent to sell.”

Others opposed a provision in the bill that would prevent drivers who test positive for small traces of marijuana from being charged with driving under the influence.

“It’s like a slap on the wrist. There’s no penalty,” said Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego. “The effect of the bill, in some people’s minds, is that marijuana is a less offensive drug than alcohol in Illinois. That concerns me.”

But advocates argue that because marijuana can stay in a person’s system for a longer period of time than alcohol, it’s possible someone could be charged with a DUI even if he or she isn’t showing signs of impairment.

- Posted by Rich Miller   72 Comments      

*** LIVE *** Session coverage

Friday, Apr 24, 2015

* The Senate left yesterday, the House is in this morning. Watch the week wind up with ScribbleLive

- Posted by Rich Miller   3 Comments      

More cuts announced

Friday, Apr 24, 2015

* Tribune

A month ago, new Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and state lawmakers agreed to $300 million in cuts as part of a plan to fix a budget passed last year that didn’t have enough money to cover 12 months of spending. […]

The administration will make roughly $106 million in cuts to the Medicaid health care program for the poor, much of which takes the form of a 16.75 percent reduction to reimbursement payments to doctors and pharmacies. Another $1.1 million would be slashed from human service programs including domestic violence shelters, services for homeless youths and the sickle cell clinic at the University of Illinois.

College scholarship grants for low-income students also would be cut, as would funding for community colleges. Lawmakers briefed by Rauner budget director Tim Nuding said he indicated that scholarships would be trimmed by about $6 million and colleges would lose about $8 million.

Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, said the cuts are “consistent” with agreements made during weeks of budget negotiations between lawmakers and Rauner’s office to fix a budget that the new governor inherited from his Democratic predecessor Pat Quinn.

* AP

According to a document released by Rauner’s budget office, the Department of Human Services will see an overall loss of $1.1 million. That includes a $419,000 cut to domestic violence shelters and a $103,000 reduction to homeless youth services. A mental health program involving psychotropic drugs would be cut by $42,000. Spokeswoman Veronica Vera said the only two programs not affected are for developmental disabilities and mental health.

Illinois community colleges will see a $6.37 million cut, according to data from its governing board. Spokesman Matthew Berry said the cut would have an immediate impact on the schools because it’s occurring so late in the year and could have an impact on services over the summer as schools will be forced to dig into reserve funds

Rauner’s budget office also said cuts will affect the Monetary Award Program at the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, but did not disclose a specific dollar amount. […]

State Sen. Dan Kotowski, one of two Senate appropriations chairs, called Thursday’s move a “stark contrast to the letters that were sent out on Good Friday without any notice.”

These are not going to be popular cuts, but legislators are at least being informed about what’s going on.

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Thursday, Apr 23, 2015

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C’mon, man!

Thursday, Apr 23, 2015

* Peoria Journal Star

When Gov. Bruce Rauner was last in the Peoria area, he said his “turnaround agenda” of reform proposals was ready to go, written into legislative form and ready for debate in the General Assembly whenever lawmakers were prepared to receive it.

Days later, he worked with legislative leaders to plan a test drive for the proposals covering matters including workers compensation reform, lawsuit reform, allowing municipalities to institute right-to-work restrictions on unions within their boundaries, freezing property taxes, raising the minimum wage, and a host of other topics — putting them before legislative “working groups” to hash out some of the details. […]

“I met with all four of the leaders in the General Assembly last week, and we’ve formed working groups and now various legislators have been assigned working groups under the different pieces of legislation. That process is underway,” Rauner said. “Those bills will come out of that in the time those groups decide and when the legislative leaders decide they’re ready for introduction to the full General Assembly. Hopefully that’ll be soon.”

However, a spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton said that matters were not nearly that advanced.

“The goals, members and operational details of the groups are still being determined,” Rikeesha Phelon said by email Wednesday afternoon.

C’mon, Bruce! Stop getting so far ahead of yourself. Also, the Speaker says you don’t have anything “in legislative form.”

* Tribune..

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is dealing with a federal investigation into a no-bid contract approved by the Chicago school board he appointed — a scandal that has forced his hand-picked schools CEO to step down and for the contract in question to be suspended.

But that didn’t stop the mayor from throwing stones at the elected board at the College of DuPage, which is the subject of its own federal investigation amid questions about no-bid contracts given to companies with links to members of the board.

Emanuel was appearing Wednesday on WTTW Ch. 11’s “Chicago Tonight,” where a group of teens asked him policy questions. He was pointing out his reasons for opposing an elected Chicago school board in response to a question from a Kelly High School student, and mentioned the problems at the west suburban community college.

“Let me give you juxtaposition. The College of DuPage has an elected board, yet you read all about the problems they have at the College of DuPage,” he said. The mayor’s comment came as federal investigators probe the Chicago School Board’s contract with SUPES Academy.

C’mon, Rahm! You’ve got an appointed superintendent under federal investigation and you have the gall to throw CoD under the bus?

* From IDES…

March was the thirteenth month in a row that unemployment rates fell in every metro area in the state compared to a year ago, according to preliminary data released today by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Rates also fell in all 102 counties for the twelfth consecutive month and the thirteenth time out of the past fifteen months. Not seasonally adjusted data compares March 2015 with March 2014.

Illinois businesses added jobs in eight metros. The largest increases were seen in: Kankakee (+2.3 percent, +1,000), Rockford (+2.1 percent, +3,100) and Danville (+2.1 percent, +600). Total nonfarm jobs in the Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights Metro Division rose (+1.5 percent, +52,100). Decreases were seen in: Decatur (-1.6 percent, -800), Carbondale-Marion (-1.5 percent, -800) and Bloomington (-0.6 percent, -600). The industry sectors recording job growth in the majority of metros were Retail Trade (9 of 14), Transportation, Warehousing and Public Utilities (9 of 14), Education and Health Services (8 of 14) and Leisure and Hospitality (8 of 14).

“It appears that the decline in the number of unemployed people has translated directly to the decline in the overall labor force both locally and statewide.” IDES Director Jeff Mays said. “This is very troubling and merits more study.”

C’mon, Jeff! According to your own numbers, state employment grew by 65,300 jobs since March of last year, and you want to focus on labor force participation, which is not out of line with surrounding states?

* Don Fullerton and Julian Reif with the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs writing in the SJ-R

To emulate private business, Illinois could charge for the use of its roads with a fee based on vehicle miles traveled. Users would pay a small price for each mile driven on public roads or they wouldn’t get to use those roads — just like laundry services and package delivery.

By one simple method, Illinois could take annual odometer readings, calculate each car’s annual miles driven, charge a penny per mile and send a bill to each driver. But other more high-tech options also are available.

With GPS to track each car’s mileage, the state could allow people to subtract miles driven outside of Illinois and to subtract miles on roads already subject to tolls in Illinois. The state even could charge a different price per mile depending on market demand: a higher price per mile on a busy urban road at rush hour and a lower price per mile in rural locations or on weekends when drivers are not using vital space on congested roadways.

So, lemme get this straight. You want the government to put a GPS device on my car to track my every movement?

C’mon, man (and woman)!

…Adding… From Sir Reel in comments…

Illinois is billed as the crossroads of America. That’s supposed to be a good thing. At least with a State gas tax we capture some revenue from the out of state traffic. Using a miles driven method means only Illinois residents pay for Illinois roads. Thanks but no thanks.


* And, finally

Former state Rep. Derrick Smith has been sentenced to five months in prison for accepting a $7,000 cash bribe, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman handed Smith the sentence at the end of an emotional sentencing hearing Thursday, telling him his willingness to pocket the bribe and his half-hearted apology showed, “It’s all about him, not about the people.”

Smith, who had faced a maximum of five years, did say “Sorry” at Thursday’s hearing, but said, “I am not a criminal.” Coleman said he had failed to acknowledge it was wrong to accept the bribe.

Smith had spent barely a year in the Illinois House when the Feds caught him trying to line his pockets with the $7,000 cash bribe. Prosecutors had asked Coleman to sentence him to as many as five years in federal prison.

He barely apologizes, says he’s “not a criminal,” his lawyer says “Derrick Smith’s life is about serving the public and giving of himself,” and you give him 5 months???

C’mon, Judge!!!

- Posted by Rich Miller   50 Comments      

133 Days Without A Solution And Counting

Thursday, Apr 23, 2015

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

It has been 133 days and counting since the BEST Coalition – remember it stands for “Better Energy Solutions for Tomorrow” – was first launched. A lot has happened in Illinois since then.

    • A new Governor and General Assembly has been sworn into office in Springfield.

    • Not 1 but 2 Chicago mayoral elections have been held.

    • A State of Illinois report was released which found that the premature closure of three of Illinois’ six nuclear plants could result in $1.8 billion annually in lost economic activity, the elimination of nearly 8,000 jobs, and increased air pollution.

    • The Low Carbon Portfolio Standard (HB 3296/SB1585), one of the policy solutions identified in the State of Illinois report, was introduced, earned bipartisan and widespread support across Illinois, and passed unanimously out of the Senate Energy & Public Utilities Committee.

    • The Chicago Bulls made the 2015 NBA playoffs.

    • Wrigley Field reopened in time for MLB Opening Day.

    • Patrick Kane’s collar bone was broken and is now healed in time to play in the playoffs.

But in all that time the BEST Coalition has yet to propose even a single solution for the problems facing Illinois. Maybe they do things differently where the groups that hide behind the BEST Coalition are from, but in Illinois, we believe in taking action to address Illinois’ problems.

Learn more about a solution for Illinois that is here today at

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Thursday, Apr 23, 2015

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Alvarez slammed, BGA sues cops

Thursday, Apr 23, 2015

* Yikes

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez was accused Wednesday of deliberately charging a now-acquitted Chicago Police detective with involuntary manslaughter instead of first-degree murder to “curry favor with” the Fraternal Order of Police.

Flamboyant criminal defense attorney Sam Adam Jr. said the rare directed verdict of acquittal that abruptly ended the trial of Dante Servin makes Adam more likely than ever to challenge Alvarez in the 2016 Democratic primary.

In issuing the stunning ruling, Circuit Judge Dennis Porter said pointing a gun at an intended victim and pulling the trigger is an intentional act — not a reckless one. He essentially said Servin should have been charged with murder — not involuntary manslaughter — for firing into a crowd and killing 22 year-old Rekia Boyd in March 2012.

Adam couldn’t agree more. But he argued that Alvarez’s “mistake” was intentional.

“When a man comes out, argues with an individual, then shoots an unregistered handgun over his shoulder into a crowd and rips the life out of a young vibrant African-American woman with no good cause and that individual is treated completely differently because he’s an off-duty police officer, that shows the problem we have in this county,” Adam said.

“To charge that as reckless conduct and not first-degree murder — either you’re doing it because you want to curry favor with the police department or you’re completely inept,” Adam said. “I think there’s no question it was deliberate. She wants to curry favor with the FOP. It took a $4.5 million settlement to get charges in this case. She was stuck in a hard place. If you charge first-degree murder, the FOP is mad at her. If you don’t charge anything, the community is upset. So you play the odds. That says you’re thinking about your job, not about what’s right.”

* But

Top prosecutors in State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office insisted the decision to charge Detective Dante Servin with involuntary manslaughter, not first-degree murder, was the only option given the facts of the case.

“The facts that were available and were presented at trial showed that this defendant did not commit an intentional or a knowing murder,” said Alan Spellberg, supervisor of the office’s criminal appeals division. “What he did was he shot over his back, backwards into the dark of night … towards people. That’s the classic definition of a reckless discharge.” […]

Spellberg of the state’s attorney’s office said first-degree murder charges weren’t an option because prosecutors didn’t have evidence that Servin had a specific intent to kill anyone.

While Servin’s attorneys argued their client intended to kill Cross [in self defense], that potential evidence never came in at trial because of its abrupt end, Spellberg said.

* On another topic, from a BGA press release…

How often do Chicago police officers miss work-related court hearings, and what effect do those absences have on criminal and traffic proceedings?

Those are potentially important questions that speak to how well officers are doing their jobs, the integrity of the criminal justice system, the stewardship of taxpayer dollars and a host of other issues.

But apparently they aren’t questions the Chicago Police Department is willing to answer.

Citing the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, the Better Government Association asked the police department for copies of records on court absences. Unsatisfied with CPD’s response, the BGA submitted a new request pressing for detailed records – including a database with information on court absences by officers – and CPD failed to even respond.

So on April 22, 2015, the BGA filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court against the police department, claiming the agency violated FOIA, the state law guaranteeing public access to public records upon request.

“They not only didn’t turn over the information we asked for, they ignored our request altogether, in blatant violation of FOIA,” said BGA CEO and President Andy Shaw. “CPD is supposed to enforce laws, not break them. This really speaks to a culture of indifference to taxpayers, and a woeful lack of transparency.”

The BGA has another pending lawsuit against CPD for its failure last year to respond to a FOIA request seeking copies of letters and emails between aldermen and police district commanders.

“The Emanuel administration, which oversees CPD, has heralded its commitment to transparency, but has not delivered in too many instances,” Shaw said. “The proof is in the numerous lawsuits we’ve filed in recent years against various city government agencies, including the police.”

Here’s a link to all of BGA’s legal actions.

* Related…

* Lawsuit Seeks To End Police Stop And Frisk Tactics In Chicago

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      

Question of the day

Thursday, Apr 23, 2015

* Bond Buyer

Peel away the layers of negative headlines and patient investors will find low default risks and underlying credit strength in this week’s $300 million Chicago Board of Education deal, according to Municipal Market Analytics.

“BOE debt is well insulated from default risk by significant ‘belt and suspenders’ protections,” MMA wrote in a market piece authored by Matt Posner & Kevin McGuigan Friday. “We understand that negative headlines, downgrades and Chapter 9 speculation have all damaged value but believe the case can be made for a considerable underlying credit strength that exists for patient investors.” […]

“Regardless of statements by the governor, Chapter 9 is likely a low probability outcome, allowing for a less cynical reading of CPS’ otherwise strong pledged security,” MMA wrote Monday in its weekly outlook authored by Matt Fabian, Lisa Washburn, and Bob Donahue.

“This security presents only minimal payment default risk,” Monday’s outlook piece said.

* Despite all that, an Illinois Policy Institute analyst writes that bankruptcy is “the only sensible option”

Bad news on Chicago is deep and broad. Consider the following:

    * The Chicago Public School system has a $1.1 billion budget bole in a $5.9 billion budget
    * The city’s 2015 budget kited two months of property taxes from the fiscal year 2016 budget
    * A $228 million to $263 million derivative time bomb just triggered on the Chicago Board of Education
    * Chicago Public Schools may be out of cash in 30 days
    * Corruption investigations plague the school board
    * The school district faces a pension payment in 2016 of about $700 million.

Since downstate voters will not want to bail out Chicago, we may easily be approaching the point the Illinois General Assembly realizes it has no choice other than to allow municipalities the option of declaring bankruptcy.

* The Question: Should the Illinois General Assembly pass a law to allow the Chicago Public School system to declare bankruptcy? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


- Posted by Rich Miller   59 Comments      

AP and Chicago Tribune - Study: Exelon subsidy would cost $1.6B over 5 years

Thursday, Apr 23, 2015

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

“I never did give them hell. I just told the truth, and they thought it was hell.”
- President Harry S. Truman

“A plan to financially reward Exelon Corp. for producing no-carbon energy and potentially save three Illinois nuclear plants from closure would cost ratepayers $1.6 billion over five years and strain budgets for financially strapped businesses and municipal governments, a study released Tuesday found.” - Associated Press, 4/21/15

By applying legislative mandates in SB 1585 / HB 3293 to historical data on Illinois electric costs and consumption, the Kestler Energy Consulting study simply calculated how much of a rate hike Exelon’s legislation would impose on families, businesses and local governments statewide.

Chicago Tribune: “Exelon-backed legislation could cost ratepayers $1.6B, study says”

Businesses and governments can learn how much the bailout would cost them at

Just say no to the Exelon bailout. Vote no on SB1585/HB3293.

BEST Coalition is a 501C4 nonprofit group of dozens of business, consumer and government groups, as well as large and small businesses. Visit

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Stop the satellite TV tax

Thursday, Apr 23, 2015

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

The cable industry is asking lawmakers to place a NEW 5% tax on satellite TV service. The satellite tax is not about fairness, equity or parity – it’s a tax increase on the 1.3 million Illinois families and businesses who subscribe to satellite TV.

Satellite Tax Will Hurt Illinois Families and Small Businesses

    • Satellite TV subscribers will see their monthly bills go up 5%.
    • This tax will impact every bar, restaurant and hotel that subscribes to satellite TV service, which will translate into higher prices, decreased revenues, and fewer jobs.
    • Rural Illinois has no choice: In many parts of Illinois, cable refuses to provide TV service to rural communities. Satellite TV is their only option.

Satellite Tax Is Not About Parity or Fairness

    • Cable’s claim that this discriminatory tax is justified because satellite TV doesn’t pay local franchise fees could not be further from the truth. Cable pays those fees to local towns and cities in exchange for the right to bury cables in the public rights of way—a right that cable companies value in the tens of billions of dollars in their SEC filings.
    • Satellite companies don’t pay franchise fees for one simple reason: We use satellites—unlike cable, we don’t need to dig up streets and sidewalks to deliver our TV service.
    • Making satellite subscribers pay franchise fees—or, in this case, an equivalent amount in taxes—would be like taxing the air. It’s no different than making airline passengers pay a fee for laying railroad tracks. They don’t use; they shouldn’t have to pay for it.

Tell Your Lawmakers to Stop The Satellite TV Tax

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More like this, please

Thursday, Apr 23, 2015

* I think I may go to this if I decide to submit myself to the mandatory background check…

Inmates at Decatur Correctional Center are starring in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” The stage play opens Wednesday, April 22nd and runs through Sunday, April 26th. The media is invited to attend the Saturday showing at 1:00p.m., when the inmates will perform in front of their family and friends.

Millikin University Associate Professor of Theatre and Dance Alex Miller is directing the play and has been rehearsing with the women for several months. Miller brought the “Shakespeare Connected” program to Decatur Correctional Center in 2011, hoping to help inmates tap into their acting abilities and teach them lessons about their own lives. This is the fourth Shakespeare production at the facility. The inmates starred in “Othello” in 2012, “The Tempest” in 2013, and “The Taming of the Shrew” in 2014.

* Today is Shakespeare’s birthday, by the way…

Chicago Shakespeare Theater and the City of Chicago celebrate William Shakespeare’s 451st Birthday on April 23, 2015 with an official proclamation from Mayor Rahm Emanuel declaring the day Talk Like Shakespeare Day. The annual holiday is an occasion for citizens from Chicago and across the globe to bring the spoken words of the playwright into their daily lives.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** It’s just a bill… (Hot button edition)

Thursday, Apr 23, 2015

* Illinois Review

A bill that opponents say would force doctors that hold religious convictions to choose between God and government is on third reading in the Illinois Senate, and could be called for a floor vote at any time.

SB 1564, sponsored by Democrat senators Daniel Biss - Julie A. Morrison - Toi W. Hutchinson - Linda Holmes - Kimberly A. Lightford, Michael Noland, Heather A. Steans, William Delgado, Iris Y. Martinez, Jacqueline Y. Collins, Emil Jones, III and Donne E. Trotter, is called the “Health Care Right of Conscience Act.”

It demands that medical personnel permit, perform, assist in, counsel about, suggest, recommend, refer for or participate in health care services a patient demands - even if it is against his or her religious belief system - unless a written protocol with alternatives is available to share with the patient.

Biss’ proposal contradicts the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, Thomas More Society counsel Tom Brechja said, the first part of which says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”

* Illinois Family Institute

“If you’re impairing the patient’s health by delaying his or her access to a suicide pill, [for example], that may be ‘Brave New World,’ but we’re already living in ‘Brave New World,’” Brechja said. “Who knows what some court somewhere is going to decide. With this bill, you’ve certainly started down that path, and into the abyss.”

Once the law says a person’s conscience must yield to state or federal law, there’s no prediction where that may lead, Brechja said.

While Illinois’ Religious Freedom Restoration Act allows citizens to act upon their religious beliefs, Biss’ law would supersede the state’s RFRA.

Nationwide, some states’ conscience clauses explicitly cover abortion, contraception, sterilization, and the withholding or withdrawing of life-sustaining treatments.

Some clauses cover local conditions. For example in Oregon, a conscience clause describes a physician’s right of refusal concerning physician-assisted suicide, which is legal in that state.

*** UPDATE *** From Ed Yohnka at the ACLU…


I just caught the coverage on the blog today about Senator Biss’ SB1564 which the Senate approved yesterday. I think that our friends at the IFI and Illinois Review have a rather distorted view of the measure, which now reflects an agreement between the ACLU, the Catholic Conference and the Catholic Health Care Association. These last two organizations would be shocked to see this description given their assent on the measure.

I know that you have covered the bill earlier in the session, but the purpose of the measure is to ensure that patients in Illinois get the health care that is best for them WHEN a doctor, a nurse of a health care institution exercises a religious objection. Nothing here eliminates the ability of a health care provider to make a conscience objection and nothing forces anyone to provide a service to which they have an objection.

Finally, while language referencing “suicide pills” is colorful and has a rhetorical flourish one might enjoy, the bill (back here in the real world) only applies to legal medical procedures. Enough said about that.

I’m attaching here our fact sheet on the bill. I’m also attaching a couple of examples of why we need this law in Illinois.

Hope all is well.


[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* Meanwhile, from the Illinois Times

Illinois lawmakers are considering legislation that would reverse a 30-year-old ban on public money being used to pay for abortions.

The bill raises one of the most controversial issues in American society, with religious groups objecting on moral grounds and women’s rights groups saying it’s a matter of fairness.

House Bill 4013, sponsored by Chicago Democrat Sara Feigenholtz, would allow state employee health insurance and Medicaid to cover abortions. The bill passed the House Human Services Committee in March with an 8-6 vote. The votes fell along party lines, with each Democrat on the panel voting for the bill and each Republican voting against it.

Since at least 1980, state law has prohibited coverage of abortions for state employees who receive health insurance through the state. The same prohibition has applied to people on Medicaid since at least the late 1980s. State law does allow coverage for abortions in cases of rape, incest, life endangerment and health endangerment. Feigenholtz’s bill would reverse that prohibition, allowing elective abortions to be covered under both state employee health insurance and Medicaid.

The bill also reverses a ban on state grants to organizations that perform abortions or refer women for the procedure. Currently, the state can make grants to organizations that provide services for women experiencing problem pregnancies. Additionally, abortion providers would no longer be required to provide a description of the method used in each request for Medicaid reimbursement under Feigenholtz’s bill.

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      

House Dems still refusing to go along with Senate’s FY 15 patch

Thursday, Apr 23, 2015

* Herald News

State legislation reinstating $26 million in cuts to social services and public health grants passed the Illinois Senate Wednesday afternoon, state Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, said.

Senate Bill 274, sponsored by Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-Park Ridge, would restore funding for a long list of programs targeted for funding suspension by Gov. Bruce Rauner earlier this month, including money to pay for indigent burials, smoking cessation, youth and teen employment and AIDS.

* Finke

However, the bill appears to be headed nowhere fast in the House, where Democrats said they want a better accounting of how Rauner is using spending authority already given to him.

Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, said she currently does not support the plan the Senate approved.

“We didn’t get good enough answers to our questions yesterday at our budget oversight hearing,” said Currie, the House majority leader. “I think we would want to get more chapter and verse before we jumped on the bandwagon in finding more resources.”

* Erickson

“This legislation is a byproduct of lengthy negotiations with Governor Rauner, Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans. By using surplus funds normally reserved for special interests, we can now restore funding for autism, epilepsy and substance abuse prevention,” said state Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-Park Ridge. […]

But, the proposal faces skepticism in the House, where Democratic leaders say Rauner already has enough cash to keep the programs afloat.

“There’s money currently to pay those grants,” said Assistant House Majority Leader John Bradley, D-Marion. “There’s great concern that there’s money already there and he needs to go ahead and get these programs paid with what we’ve already done.”

Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said the proposal is under review.

“We haven’t signed on,” Brown said.

LIHEAP recipients are “special interests”?

* Vinicky

While advocates for the programs say they’re thankful it may be false hope because the House isn’t on board with the plan. Under a previous agreement with Rauner, lawmakers already swept other… special funds.

House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie says she wants to know what the governor did with all of that.

“We didn’t get good enough answers to our questions yesterday (Tuesday) in our budget oversight hearing about what’s happened to the $900 million that we gave them. So I think we would want to get more chapter and verse before we jumped on the bandwagon in finding more resources,” Currie says. “I think we just want some answers. Where did the money go? Surely it’s not sitting in the bank, or under the governor’s pillow?”

The governor’s office says it’s been clear from the onset: that money was never enough to fill the state’s current budget hole.

* Illinois Times

“There are a number of people who are served by the state of Illinois and all of them think that their program is the most important … because it’s their life and it’s important to them,” [Greg Bassi, acting secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services] said. “That’s what makes this so challenging.”

Last Thursday, a group of organizations that administer the TAP grants held a press conference to plead their case. Russell Bonnano, program manager for TAP of Illinois, said that although the window had been left open for more funding in the upcoming Fiscal Year 2016, many of the nonprofits administering the program will not survive unless funding is restored for Fiscal Year 2015. He also noted the irony of having to face this dilemma during Autism Awareness Month. […]

Debra Vines, who runs The Answer Inc., one of TAP’s beneficiaries, made reference to her 27-year-old son, Jason Harlan, who after two months in the program, learned to write his name for the first time.

In stark contrast to Jason is Nehemiah, whose success his parents largely credit to TAP, which he had started in January. Earlier this month, Nehemiah was ranked third in his class for spelling.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      

Caption contest!

Thursday, Apr 23, 2015

* From Evanston Now

One amenity that the 835 Chicago Ave. development in Evanston won’t be able to boast of at its groundbreaking later this morning is gigabit speed internet service.

In January 2013 then Gov. Pat Quinn showed up at the library branch across the street to announce a $1 million state grant to provide ultra-high-speed internet service for what city officials hoped would become an “innovation corridor” along Chicago Avenue near the Main Street intersection.

Well, after various delays in getting the project launched, new Gov. Bruce Rauner cancelled the grant earlier this year and city officials — who’d already received the money — now will have to return it.

* The accompanying photograph…

Keep it clean, people. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   87 Comments      

What would elder care be like without the civil justice system?

Thursday, Apr 23, 2015

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Nursing homes are big business. An increased emphasis on profits has led to a distressing rise in neglected and abused seniors. With regulatory and legislative bodies unable to cope with a groundswell of neglect and abuse, the civil justice system has stepped into the breach. Attorneys who represent our nation’s seniors and their families play a critical role in uncovering abuse and neglect.

Stories of abuse and neglect are all too common in American nursing homes. 14,000 nursing home patients died nationwide of malnutrition and dehydration. Nearly 160,000 residents had at least one pressure ulcer, yet only 35 percent of those with the most severe ulcers received special care for their wounds. As many at 1.5 million seniors are abused every year, and experts believe that for every case of reported abuse, five go unreported because nursing home residents are afraid of repercussions. Trial attorneys have proven to be the most effective advocates of abused and neglected seniors.

The civil justice system is the most effective force to compel corporate nursing homes to fix their conduct. For more information, click here.

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*** UPDATED x1 *** Rauner opens yet another front against labor

Thursday, Apr 23, 2015

* From Jim Sweeney, a member of the state Tollway Board and president of Local 150 of the Operating Engineers Union…

Governor has Tollway vote to eliminate Project Labor Agreement on all work going forward! 5 to 3.

PLA’s are at least partly designed to ensure labor peace.

Crazy times coming, folks.

*** UPDATE *** Daily Herald

In January 1994, the tollway instituted a multi-project labor agreement requiring that collective bargaining agreements be applied to all tollway projects.

With a vote of 6-3 Thursday, the board rescinded that effective May 1. The change will affect future contracts, not existing ones.

The tollway is in the midst of a massive $12 billion building program with work on the Jane Addams (I-90) and Elgin-O’Hare Expressway (Route 390) going on simultaneously.

Sweeney recalled a construction strike in 2010 involving a number of building trades unions. Tollway work continued because of the multi-project labor agreement, he said, noting workers were bound to cross picket lines.

Tollway administrators said the change didn’t mean the agency wouldn’t be hiring unions, but their actions did reflect the governor’s comments and discussions with his staff.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      

Rebutting the “Illinois doesn’t have a revenue problem” argument

Thursday, Apr 23, 2015

* Ralph Martire

Start with the contention that Illinois has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. If that were truly the case, it indeed would be possible to redress a significant portion of Illinois’ fiscal woes by cutting “nonessential” spending. So when confronted with a $1.6 billion shortfall in the current fiscal year, you’d expect the governor’s team would identify all those “nonessential” services and propose giving them the ax. And you’d be wrong.

As the Rauner administration quickly discovered, it’s difficult to categorize things like child care for working parents, staffing levels at prisons and court reporters as “nonessential.”

This in turn led to a deal with the Democratic-controlled General Assembly to avert some $1.3 billion in potential cuts by raising that amount in revenue through a sweep of various special funds. Mind you, this left $300 million to cut, an amount Rauner apparently believed was too severe. Shortly after announcing the deal, he emphasized that “our administration had actually advocated more sweeping and fewer cuts.”

This is interesting because it shows, in both words and action, that Rauner recognizes that two core aspects of his campaign rhetoric don’t pass the reality test.

First and foremost, it demonstrates that spending on nonessential fluff isn’t the problem. Indeed, the services being cut are crucial for many Illinois families. And if he didn’t get that before Good Friday, he certainly did after. […]

Second, there’s the implicit recognition by Rauner that more revenue is needed to support core services. Apparently, this need is so glaring that it justifies using one-time revenue obtained through fund sweeps to plug the current spending gap — which works, of course, only for the current year. Next year, there will be no revenue available to support the $1.3 billion in spending that was so “essential” this year that special funds had to be raided to cover them.


- Posted by Rich Miller   88 Comments      

Rauner says he wants school consolidation

Thursday, Apr 23, 2015

* You really gotta hand it to the governor. The man makes no small plans

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday said that it’s a “travesty” for Illinois to be “dead last” in general funding for its schools and promised to send more money to classrooms. […]

Rauner suggested that cost saving could be found in the layers of bureaucracy within the state’s 850-plus school districts, some of which are just a single school.

“The money should be in the classroom with the teachers, with technology, with the infrastructure and with the students. Not in the bureaucracy,” he said. “We have a lot of layers that consume the money.”

The topic of school district consolidation has been a recurring one in Illinois. Decades ago, Illinois went from 12,000 school districts to roughly the current setup. But separate elementary school districts and high school districts remain throughout the state, including the Metro East.

* Except maybe about his political future

Gov. Bruce Rauner said he has no plans to run for president and revealed his favorite ice cream is chocolate chip during an interview Wednesday by a group of fourth-graders from Harristown, a town west of Decatur.

The 27 students, in Springfield as part of a civics event first launched more than four decades ago, toured the Hall of Governors and then interviewed Rauner in his second-floor office on Wednesday. All of the students wore media badges with their name and the media outlet they wanted to represent.

Jordan Szczelaszczyk, 9, asked the governor if he plans to run for other offices, like president.

“That’s a very good question, I get asked that a lot and there’s a very simple answer. I really don’t have an interest in anything else, other than helping Illinois as governor,” Rauner said. “But I’m privileged to be governor; that’s all I want to do. And the most I want to do it for is eight years.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   55 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** Dold lands plum assignment, TCullerton wins some union nods

Thursday, Apr 23, 2015

* Lynn Sweet

Rep. Bob Dold, R-lll., won a coveted slot on the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday, replacing former Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., who resigned last month and now faces a criminal probe of his spending of taxpayer and campaign funds.

The House Republican Steering Committee handed the plum to Dold, said his chief of staff, James Slepian. “The issues he hears most frequently about are the economy, taxes and health care,” said Slepian, all areas under the Ways and Means panel jurisdiction. […]

Dold will have to surrender the seat he now has on the Financial Services Committee in order to join Ways and Means.

Other Illinois lawmakers on Ways and Means are Republican Rep. Peter Roskam and Democrat Danny Davis.

*** UPDATE *** DCCC…

To the Manor Born: Dold Inherits Schock’s Plush Committee Seat After Taking Schock Money

Looks like Aaron Schock has found an heir for his fashionable seat on the Ways and Means Committee: none other than Congressman Bob Dold. This comes just weeks after Dold “doubled down” on his refusal to donate to charity the tainted donations given to him by the disgraced former Congressman.

“Congressman Dold’s eager acceptance of Schock’s gilded Committee seat shows he’s only too keen to pick up where Aaron Schock left off when he left town in disgrace: doing the bidding of special interests in Washington,” said Matt Thornton, spokesman for the DCCC. “Congressman Dold is clearly Republican leadership’s anointed heir to a shameful legacy and will continue to be a reliable vote for his party.”

Man, is that ever a stretch.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* And from a press release…

A little over a week after announcing his exploratory bid for the 8th Congressional District, state Senator Tom Cullerton has secured the early support of several of Illinois’s largest labor unions. Supporters include International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 2, Teamster’s Joint Council 25, Laborers International Union of North America Local 68, and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, and Utility Workers of America Local 18007. […]

“I am proud to have the support of the working men and women of these locals. I will be a relentless voice for those in labor and working people in Congress.” Cullerton said.

Sen. Tom Cullerton, prior to being elected to the State Senate was member of Teamster’s Local 734. He was a route salesman for Hostess Brands before they filed for bankruptcy in 2012. Cullerton is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for the 8th Congressional District.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      

Your daily “right to work” roundup

Thursday, Apr 23, 2015

* The governor’s office says it has no updates for us this morning. Let’s move along to local media coverage starting with the Elgin Courier-News

Kane County won’t be endorsing Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Turnaround Illinois reform package, but will craft its own resolution calling for reform in Springfield.

“Kane County will play no part in the Governor’s politically motivated crusade against the working class citizens of Illinois, we will instead actively engage Springfield ’s legislative initiatives that directly impact our county’s budget and the wellbeing of our citizens,” County board member Myrna Molina said at the county’s Legislative Committee meeting Wednesday.

The county’s Legislative Committee’s Wednesday agenda included a discussion on a resolution. Rauner has been asking cities, villages and counties to pass a Local Government Empowerment and Reform resolution. He made a stop in Kane County April 7 seeking support. Rauner’s office could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Union members from around Kane County crowded Wednesday’s meeting to speak out against the resolution.

* The Joliet Times Weekly

Joliet Mayor-Elect Bob O’Dekirk said Tuesday he opposes the governor’s proposal to creation of right-to-work “empowerment zones” in order to entice new businesses to Illinois.

Eliminating workers’ rights to collectively bargain by asking voters to vote on the issue through local voter referendums is “not an option,” O’Dekirk said in a statement he released on the issue. […]

“While the governor says that he respects the rights of labor to organize and fight for their wages and benefits, the creation of right-to-work zones would effectively create a disadvantage for union employers to create and expand operations in municipalities that respect the right to organize,” O’Dekirk.

“Union training, union standards and union safety rules protect workers, employers and the general public from workplace accidents and disasters. A union worker may cost more, but you get more, and so does the local economy. Those union wages support every business in the city of Joliet while the additional corporate profits earned in non-union companies may never find their way back into our local economy.”

* Daily Herald

“The governor is encouraged that communities across the state from Round Lake Beach to McHenry County to Rockford to Effingham County are embracing the turnaround agenda,” Rauner’s office said in a statement Wednesday. “The turnaround agenda resolution is a way for communities to show they embrace the governor’s plan for more voter empowerment and local control.”

East Dundee Village President Lael Miller, however, says the village’s unanimous support of the agenda is not an endorsement of one of its most controversial elements — so-called empowerment zones or right-to-work zones that could be created if municipalities were allowed to decide whether workers must join a union to be employed. Proponents of the governor’s plan say the zones will help attract jobs, but union leaders denounce them as “right-to-work-for-less” zones.

“What (the resolution) says is that we’d like to start a larger conversation with the governor,” Miller said. “We realize that Illinois has a severe fiscal crisis. We know that things have to change. This is a starting point.” […]

In Buffalo Grove, officials approved a resolution that opposes unfunded mandates and asks the state not to freeze property taxes or cut the amount of tax revenue it gives back to municipalities. But it was a far cry from what Rauner suggested.

“I didn’t feel it was appropriate for us to do deal with those types of union issues,” Village President Jeffrey Braiman said.

* Bernie

“There are thousands of employers, manufacturers and transportation firms, foreign-owned companies, that won’t come to a closed-shop, forced-unionization state,” [Gov. Rauner] said. And he added that as local governments consider the resolutions, “the special interest groups that like big government and currently control government, they’re showing up by the hundreds. They’re shipping them from other communities by the busloads to protest.

“Stand up to the protests,” Rauner told the bankers. “The government doesn’t belong to those folks; it belongs to the local people.” He said to tell local officials to support the agenda. […]

[Bill Looby, political director of the state AFL-CIO] hadn’t heard of any busloads of out-of-towners at any of the local meetings.

“It’s false and insulting to local communities for the governor to dismiss or distort grassroots resistance to his anti-worker tactics,” [Anders Lindall, spokesman for AFSCME Council 31] said. “If he listened to testimony in town after town, he would hear teachers, caregivers, construction workers and tradespeople” protecting their “middle-class standard of living against the governor’s attacks. … The only ‘outsiders’ I’m aware of at these meetings are the governor’s own staff.”


- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      

*** UPDATED x5 - House approves - Senate approves *** This Is Illinois

Thursday, Apr 23, 2015

* Sneed

The abrupt resignation Tuesday of Friends of the Parks President Cassandra Francis, who fought to keep the Obama presidential library off park district land, may have been the final hurdle in bringing the iconic library and museum to Chicago.

A top source claims the mayor’s office is saying the Obama Presidential Library is now a definite go for Chicago.

Sneed is told Francis resigned “because her annual evaluation and ability to work with the board was not turning out well,” said a Friends of the Parks source who asked to remain anonymous.

* And the very next day

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has turned to state lawmakers to get some legal leverage as he tries to outflank park preservationists’ opposition to two hoped-for legacy projects: the Barack Obama presidential library and the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.

A measure to change state law to clarify that the city has the authority to build the Obama library near the University of Chicago and the Lucas museum along the lakefront surfaced in Springfield late Wednesday afternoon and was put on a fast track to reach Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk as soon as Thursday.

Senate President John Cullerton argued that the bill was to make “doubly certain” the city could move forward should it win the bid for the Obama library, noting fierce competition from Columbia University in New York. Obama is expected to make an announcement on his library location in the coming weeks.

“We just want to make sure that there’s no issue with regard to Chicago being able to be chosen,” Cullerton said. “Obviously there were some concerns about our competition in New York having a clearer ownership issue with the land.”

To that end, the proposal would amend state law to specifically allow the construction of “presidential libraries” on public parkland as long as the public can access the grounds “in a manner consistent with its access to other public parks.”

The bill zoomed out of Senate Exec yesterday 15-0, so, obviously, the governor is fully on board. It’s greased lightning.

*** UPDATE 1 *** Zoom zoom…


Amendment reaffirms that presidential libraries, other museums can be built on park land

“As the city where President Obama started his career in public service and raised his family, Chicago is united in its effort to welcome the President’s legacy and the foundation of his future civic initiatives. We have taken the necessary steps as a city to ensure that Chicago does not lose out on this incredible economic, cultural and educational opportunity. Further, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will be a great new addition to the city’s museum campus that will benefit residents and visitors for generations to come. I commend the State Senate for passing this amendment, as this action makes it clear that they agree with the city’s position that a presidential library and other museums enhance park land for the benefit of the public, and I urge the State House of Representatives to join with us in supporting this amendment.”

*** UPDATE 2 *** The bill passed the Senate at about 12:30 this afternoon. I checked the bill status at 12:50 and it’s already zipping through the House…

*** UPDATE 3 *** From the press room at 1:50 pm…

Steve Brown has advised me the Obama library bill will be up in about 5 minutes in the House

Rick Millard

*** UPDATE 4 *** Press release…

Mayor Rahm Emanuel today commended House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton, Senator Kwame Raoul and the Illinois General Assembly on their passage of an amendment to the Park District Aquarium and Museum Act.

“I commend the Illinois General Assembly for making it clear that they agree with Chicago’s position that presidential libraries and other museums enhance park land for the benefit of the public,” said Mayor Emanuel. “The Obama Presidential Library and Lucas Museum of Narrative Art would not only benefit residents and visitors for generations to come, these institutions would provide incredible economic, cultural and educational opportunities to the city and state.”

As part of the Mayor’s commitment to secure the presidential library for Chicago, this action will provide further reassurance for the Barack Obama Foundation to choose the president’s home town as the site of the Barack Obama Presidential Library and Museum.

The amendment was passed today by both the Illinois State Senate and House of Representatives.

Wonder how long it’ll be before the guv signs it?

*** UPDATE 5 *** Press release…

House Speaker Michael J. Madigan issued the following statement after legislation to help ensure Barack Obama’s presidential library is located in Illinois was sent to the governor Thursday:

“Ensuring President Obama’s library is sited in Illinois is a priority. For more than one year, I have worked to make Illinois proposals the most attractive and competitive. Today’s vote enhances those proposals and clarifies this is a proper use of park land for this truly historic institution,” Madigan said.

“I believe it will be a destination for visitors from every corner of the globe and a repository of documents and artifacts from a transformational presidency,” Madigan added.

In 2014, the Speaker called for the state’s next capital construction program to include funding for President Obama’s library to help improve Chicago’s bid in the competitive site selection process. The legislation approved Thursday is another way the state can help bring President Obama’s library to Illinois, its rightful home, Madigan explained.

“Current and future generations deserve the opportunity to learn first-hand the impact of President Obama on Illinois as a member of the General Assembly, a U.S. senator and our president, and to also learn how our state had an impact on him.

“We’re proud to be able to say that Illinois is home to the presidential library and museum of our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln. But the opportunity to bring a presidential library to Illinois is rare. It is an opportunity that we should seize upon.”

Madigan noted the legislation will also assist with the development of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which is also expected to draw a worldwide audience.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 - Smith gets 5 months *** Today’s quotable

Thursday, Apr 23, 2015

* Former Rep. Derrick Smith (D-Chicago) will be sentenced in federal court today…

It took Derrick Smith only a year in the Illinois House of Representatives to try to line his pockets with a $7,000 cash bribe.

Now prosecutors want the disgraced former state representative to spend as many as five years in a federal prison to think about the stack of bills he kept in a chest at the foot of his bed until admitting to the FBI he’d “f—ed up,” according to trial testimony.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marsha McClellan said that length of sentence would send a message to the unrepentant Smith — who denied his guilt even after his conviction last year — and to the constituents who re-elected him after his arrest in March 2012. […]

Victor P. Henderson, Smith’s defense attorney, will seek leniency for a man he said is simply trying to move on with life and provide for his family. Before his 2012 re-election, the West Side legislator became the first member in a century to be tossed from the House. […]

“Derrick Smith’s life is about serving the public and giving of himself,” Henderson wrote in his own memo to the judge in February.

Yeah. OK.

*** UPDATE *** Five months?…

And, no, that’s not a typo.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      

*** LIVE *** Session coverage

Thursday, Apr 23, 2015

* Another day, another ScribbleLive feed

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

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Good morning!

Thursday, Apr 23, 2015

* When life is hard you have to change

And as we all play parts of tomorrow

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      

* More shenanigans!
* Saturday campaign money report
* *** UPDATED x2 *** Shenanigans!
* Tribune drops bombshell on Biss running mate
* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* Rauner: "Madigan has rigged the Democratic primary for Pritzker"
* New Ives radio ad claims Democrats are trying to help Rauner, while Brady does Rauner robocall
* *** UPDATED x1 - DGA responds *** Elections board says DGA should file disclosure for Ives ad
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY: Jones; IEA/IFT; Reis; Mitchell; Edgar
* ISRA, Drury both try to claim Raoul inserted "poison pill" into gun bill
* Pro-life group launches GOTV effort for Lipinski
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Rauner opens new online track against Ives
* Erika Harold still can't remember comments, but says "I was wrong"
* Rauner calls Madigan "a unified force of bad, of evil"
* Sen. Duckworth gets involved in another state central committee race
* *** UPDATED x2 *** Has Pritzker gone to ground?
* Illinois House Bill HB 4900 Wastes Government Resources
* McCann, barred from SGOP caucus meeting, claims Rauner threatened to "destroy you and your family"
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Caption contest!
* Obama mailer kerfuffle in Lipinski district
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* After spending millions in Dem primary, Rauner accuses "Washington liberals" of "hijacking" the GOP primary
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