* A letter from CMS General Counsel Michael Basil to the governor’s general counsel discusses how the state will determine eligibility for Fair Labor Standards Act designations for all state employees. That was a critical aspect of the 2007 government shutdown employee payroll case, you will recall. The comptroller argued at the time that state agencies just didn’t have time to put the data together.
(M)y office reasonably estimates that it would take approximately nine to twelve months at current staffing levels to determine with the required degree of accuracy the FLSA status of the approximately 45,000 employees who perform work for the State of Illinois under the jurisdiction of the Governor’s Office.
So, they may be able to convince a judge to go along again and order paychecks to be issued. We’ll see. The last judge was mighty reluctant. Then again, no judge wants to be put into a position like that.
* The governor has said he would veto a temporary budget, and I’m not sure that the House Democrats have enough people in town to muster the 71 votes on their own, but it might put the GOP on the defensive a bit…
On the eve of a possible government shutdown, Democrats in Springfield are considering a $2.2 billion, one-month budget to fund select, critical services, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
Documents obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show Democrats are considering funding “Tier One” services, including:
Probationary spending to pay for GPS tracking of sex offenders
Community-based services for the mentally ill.
A slew of programs through the Department of Human Services
Many here often bemoan the loss of Southern Illinois clout under the dome that seems to have faded away with the passing of bygone powerhouse wheelers and dealers – names like Clyde Choate, Paul Powell, Ken Gray, John Gilbert and Bruce Richmond – who built political careers by bringing home the state and federal pork: interstates, institutions, schools, a lake and prisons.
But at the same time, the one local politician who has managed to amass the most influence in Springfield in decades also is the most vulnerable in 2016.
That’s because Rep. John Bradley has hitched his wagon to Madigan – gaining sought-after influence, but at a cost.
Now more than ever, Bradley is facing the high price of power.
Despite repeated attempts to reach him, Bradley declined to speak with The Southern Illinoisan for this story.
The article reports that the Republicans may have found an opponent to take on their top House target next year, Williamson County Commissioner Ron Ellis.
Campbell said he considers Bradley a friend, but still said, “I’m concerned that John’s viewpoints are often too much in line with that of the Speaker, and I don’t think that’s for the best interest of Southern Illinois.” Campbell surmised that Bradley has chosen this risky route because he has aspiration of higher office, which generally requires the backing of the party to win, particularly for a downstater with little name ID in the populous north.
The story, which the Southern Illinoisan put on its front page, is full of such quotes. Go check it out.
“I want to make darn sure you guys are paid, you guys are paid on time, you don’t miss any payroll, and you’re paid 100 percent of your salary, not some lesser amount,” Rauner said. “This is going to be a stressful time for your families. I apologize for that.”
Rauner said his staff was talking with the state attorney general’s office to work out an agreement that mirrors what was done in 2007, when a budget fight spilled into July and workers continued to be paid.
* I asked the attorney general’s spokesperson whether there’d been staff discussions along those lines and, after checking with higher-ups, she called back with a one-word answer: No.
* Here’s the letter, which is packed full of snark from the Snark Prince himself…
Dear Representative Bradley:
Thank you for your recent letter of June 26, 2015. I am pleased to respond.
On June 23, 2015, you convened a hearing of the House Revenue Committee purportedly to review information regarding administration personnel compensation. However, when the hearing convened, you stated that the information in question was not yet available. Following a lengthy recess, a hastily constructed memorandum emerged filled with glaring errors and factual inaccuracies. Specifically, your June 23, 2015 memorandum:
* named Governor’s Office employees who no longer work in the Office of the Governor;
* listed incorrect annual compensation levels for other employees; and
* featured a table in the center of the first page claiming 35 minus 28 equaled 13.
As you may know, 35 minus 28 equals 7. Given your support for a budget out of balance by $4 billion, finding errors in basic arithmetic is not a great surprise.
After receiving your most recent letter, we conducted a review of total personnel compensation costs across all agencies under our Administration’s control. In comparing state payroll records from February through May 2014 to February through May 2015, we found that Governor Rauner spent $4 million less than Governor Quinn on compensation. This data is publicly available through the Illinois Comptroller’s website. Additionally, I would remind you that Governor Rauner does not take a salary or a pension.
While Governor Rauner has taken unprecedented steps to reduce costs, including cutting his own office budget by 10%, you and your colleagues are scheduled to receive an automatic pay raise tomorrow. As you are aware, HB 4225 would prevent legislators’ automatic cost-of-living adjustment from taking effect in Fiscal Year 2016. Without this legislation, you will get an automatic pay raise - and because you voted for and helped enact SB 274 last year, you are guaranteed to be paid even without a state budget. Rather than holding more sham hearings and issuing poorly constructed memorandums, we urge you to bring HB 4225 to the floor without delay.
As always, our Administration stands ready to negotiate in good faith with legislative leaders to reach a bipartisan agreement on Governor Rauner’s compromise proposals. I urge you to come back to the negotiating table so that, together, we can Turnaround Illinois.
With warmest personal regards,
Richard A. Goldberg
Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative Affairs
Tuesday, Jun 30, 2015 - Posted by Advertising Department
[The following is a paid advertisement.]
Two recent studies published by NPR/Pro Publica and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) show that nationwide, insurance companies have kept any cost savings from recent workers’ compensation “reforms” for themselves, with profits climbing to 18 percent in 2013 – while middle and lower-income families and taxpayers are paying the price.
In 2011 Illinois enacted its own workers’ compensation “reform” package aimed at lowering costs for businesses. Workers gave up longstanding rights and in return, insurance companies were to be transparent with pricing and pass savings along to employers. As it turns out, only the workers kept up their end of the bargain.
The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) is an independent, non-partisan agency comprised of insurance professionals licensed by the Illinois Department of Insurance to assess workers’ compensation in Illinois and make premium rate recommendations to insurers. Since 2011, NCCI has recommended insurance premium reductions totaling nearly 20 percent.
The 2011 reforms were projected to save insured employers nearly $1 billion assuming the insurance industry would fully adopt the NCCI recommendations.
The insurance industry’s failure to fully implement NCCI recommended rate reductions has prevented Illinois insured employers from realizing any meaningful savings.
No matter how many benefits are cut, medical reimbursements are lowered, and claims are denied, the state’s businesses won’t see corresponding savings without our leaders addressing the promises previously broken by the insurance industry.
Tuesday, Jun 30, 2015 - Posted by Advertising Department
[The following is a paid advertisement.]
As a friend to the consumer and trusted partner in their financial lives, credit unions are always looking out for their members’ best interests. When circumstances arise that are beyond the control of their members, credit unions are already there proactively working behind the scenes to provide peace of mind.
Take for instance University of Illinois Employees Credit Union (UIECU). In light of a possible payroll interruption as a result of the current state budget crisis, the credit union has been anticipating their state employee members could need help and has put plans into place to help their members weather the storm. This includes waiving skip payment fees and courtesy pay fees as necessary, as well as waiving early withdrawal penalties of certificate/Christmas club accounts and offering low-interest, short term loans. And UIECU is just one of many credit unions that have stepped up to help their members and consumers during this challenging time.
Credit unions remain true to one principle - people before profits - and represent a highly valued resource by more than 3 million Illinois consumers during times that pose economic and financial challenges.
Rep. Tammy Duckworth’s tumultuous record as Rod Blagojevich’s Director of Veterans’ Affairs and her upcoming trial on charges that she violated state ethics laws are the subject of a newly released Illinois Republican Party digital advertisement entitled “Just Like The Past.”
“Just like Rod Blagojevich, Rep. Duckworth is caught up in an ethics scandal and is headed to trial,” said Nick Klitzing, Executive Director of the Illinois Republican Party. “When Rep. Duckworth sought to fire a whistleblower instead of actually investigating the claims of poor care and abuse of veterans, it demonstrated that she was more concerned with protecting her power, her party and Gov. Blagojevich than doing her job.”
Earlier this month, the Union County Circuit Court set the trial schedule for Rep. Duckworth’s case with pre-trial and motion hearings in August and December and a bench trial in April 2016.
* Legislative Democrats have been holding rallies and other media events the past several days to highlight budget issues…
What started off as a positive rally last week to pull community and social service groups together in a collective voice to oppose budget cuts proposed by Gov. Bruce Rauner turned sour during the final minutes of the event.
The June 25 rally, hosted by members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, drew a standing-room only crowd of concerned citizens and advocacy groups at Austin’s Senior Satellite Center, 5071 W. Congress Pkwy. […]
But as the crowd began to file out after the two-hour rally was winding down, a visibly shaken and emotional Lightford quickly came back to the podium with some unfortunate news: Rauner had just vetoed the budget sent to him by state lawmakers, only a day after signing off on a bill that would provide the funds needed to allow public elementary and high schools to open in the fall.
“At first, it was just a little surprising that the governor would sign the education portion yesterday, and then turn around today and cut the entire bill,” Lightford said. “But it just shows me the selfishness in the way he’s looking to govern, that if we don’t give him everything he wants, then he’s willing to hurt people.”
A Southland mayor referred to the governor as “Rauner Hood” because he’s the opposite of Robin Hood, “he steals from the poor and gives to the rich.”
Also Thursday, State Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Tinley Park, called on the head of the Illinois Department of Human Services to quit while addressing a legislative black caucus rally at South Suburban College, where elected officials detailed the devastating impact of budget cuts on Southland social services.
The next day, at a forum on “The State Budget and Its Impact on the Southland Region” at Governors State University, speakers from the south suburban chapter of United Way and from Voices for Illinois Children talked about Gov. Bruce Rauner’s decision to veto a budget plan that was underfunded by $3 billion to $4 billion. They said the veto would harm local communities by cutting aid to disabled people and single parents who rely on day care and by eliminating summer jobs programs for youngsters.
At each of the forums, people in the audience were encouraged to support tax increases to adequately pay for programs for people in need.
State Rep. Brandon Phelps (118th District) was hot under the collar Monday, June 22, and not just because of the warm temperatures outside the Williamson County Programs on Aging building in Herrin.
“The governor’s making us sweat, too,” said Phelps, a Democrat from Harrisburg, who joined 117th District State Rep.John Bradley, D-Marion, and 59th District State Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, at a press conference to discuss their opposition to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget plan.
Among the proposed cuts in Rauner’s plan, the three lamented proposals to close Southern Illinois facilities and reduce or eliminate funding for certain rural health care treatments, home energy assistance, in-home care for the elderly and other services.
“The governor should be focused on cutting waste in Springfield and Chicago, not cutting jobs here in Southern Illinois,” Phelps said.
With Illinois just one day away from shutting down services, residents filled a room at the Fountaindale Public Library on Monday night to air concerns to Democrat lawmakers.
Some expressed concern over what could happen to key state services if a budget deal is not struck by the end of Tuesday, while others criticized lawmakers for not compromising with Gov. Bruce Rauner on his reform proposals. […]
Joe Nichols of Shorewood was quick to point out the blame should not fall solely on Rauner, who is six months into his first term and blasted the Democratic Party for years of operating Illinois in the red.
“I think, you, the Democratic Party should hang its head in shame. [Rauner] has a mess on his hands, and who created this mess?” Nichols said. “We’re constantly talking about ‘Oh, Rauner’s cutting this, Rauner’s cutting that. He’s the bad guy.’ … Yet we don’t seem to have the money. Well, I’m going to throw it right back in your lap and ask what are you going to do about it?”
The Supreme Court agreed to reconsider whether it’s constitutional for public sector unions to impose mandatory fees on non-members. The court will hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which challenges 1977’s Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. That case established the constitutionality of the non-member payments, known as “fair share fees.” It allowed unions to charge such fees “insofar as the service charges are applied to collective-bargaining, contract administration, and grievance-adjustment purposes.”
The Supreme Court has for years upheld Abood. But Justice Samuel Alito said in a 2014 opinion — Harris v. Quinn — that the reasoning in Abood was “questionable on several grounds,” essentially inviting new challenges. That challenge came in Friedrichs, where a group of California teachers sued the California Teachers Association for allegedly coercing them into an “agency shop arrangement” whereby they could decline union membership but were still compelled to pay a “fair share” fee for union bargaining.
Seven Illinois activists participated in civil disobedience late Monday afternoon during a Chicago “Moral Monday” protest against Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget cuts.
As part of the protest, a few hundred clergy and grassroots activists with Fair Economy Illinois marched from the Thompson Center to 131 S. Dearborn St., the downtown office building of Citadel LLC. The hedge fund firm’s founder and CEO Ken Griffin has given Rauner millions in campaign donations.
Seven protesters, including five religious leaders, were taken into Chicago police custody after refusing to leave the Citadel building lobby, where they held up a banner reading, “Rauner/Griffin. Fair Budget Now! No Cuts! Tax the Rich!” […]
During the demonstration, activists chanted, “Love thy neighbor as thyself. Tax the rich and share the wealth.” They also staged a “die-in” outside the Citadel building while the seven protesters were being put into police vehicles.
* The Tribune looks at the bill to postpone today’s mandated CPS $634 million pension payment for 40 days…
Rauner last week vetoed the majority of a Democrat-passed state spending plan, the exception being a portion that funnels money to elementary and high schools.
Those state aid payments are scheduled to go out Aug. 10, and the pension delay proposal would postpone the massive payment until the same date. The idea was to buy the city some time to cobble together enough money for the payment — an effort that would be helped by the infusion of state dollars — while a broader pension overhaul is worked out.
Such a measure needs 71 votes to pass, which is the same number of Democrats in the chamber. Just 37 voted in favor last time amid opposition from some who didn’t want to be viewed as voting for a pension holiday and others who didn’t want to bow to Emanuel.
Complicating things are questions about whether Rauner has pulled his support from the bill. While he backed the measure last week, he’s since floated an alternative. Under that plan, the state would give CPS an upfront payment of $450 million in grant money that’s normally distributed over the course of the year. The mayor’s office rejected that idea Monday.
16 Republicans voted for the pension delay bill the last time around. But if Rauner bricks that thing, then most of those HGOPs will back away.
* From Gov. Bruce Rauner’s e-mail to state employees yesterday…
Our lawyers are working hard to ensure that all employees will be paid on their scheduled pay dates. The precedent already exists. This is the right thing to do and I will work with union leaders to fight any legal attempts to overturn existing precedent.
* But take a look at this summary of AFSCME’s 2007 suit to force the state to make payroll. It was posted by the SJ-R back in the day. Click here or on the pic for a larger version…
“The Agreed Order was not precedent for any other lawsuit, issue or claim.”
Indeed, as I recall, the Christian County judge told the union not to come back to him ever again. And two years later, in 2009, when AFSCME tried again to force the state to issue pay checks, it did so in St. Clair County.
* The issue in 2007 was the state’s problems complying with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Comptroller Dan Hynes and the union argued that state agencies simply did not have the time to figure out who was eligible to receive federal minimum wages under the FLSA.
In 2009, Comptroller Hynes issued a memo to all state agency fiscal officers telling them that they needed to make contingency preparations in case appropriations weren’t approved. The governor’s office balked because of this particular language…
In addition to the traditional certification required by Section 9.03 of the State Finance Act (30 ILCS 105/9.03), the Office of the Comptroller will require additional certification to accompany each FLSA payroll voucher certifying that lawful expenditure authority for the voucher exists in the absence of appropriations. The certification shall be signed and dated by the agency’s chief executive officer, the chief legal counsel, and the chief fiscal officer. The certification shall be as follows:
“I certify, based upon review of applicable law and facts, that lawful expenditure authority exists for the attached voucher(s).”
This additional certification will ensure the proper identification and timely processing of lawful payments. Please be reminded that knowingly and intentionally executing a false certification under Section 9.03 of the State Finance Act shall result in removal from office if done by an officer or discharge if done by an employee (30 ILCS 105/9.06). [Emphasis added.]
The suit was rendered moot when the budget was passed.
* This time around, Attorney General Madigan warned the administration that it needed to start working on this certification process. That warning tipped the governor’s office that Madigan was prepared to oppose AFSCME’s suit like she did in 2009. And that resulted in Rauner’s e-mail yesterday standing in solidarity with AFSCME.
The General Assembly by law shall make appropriations for all expenditures of public funds by the State. […]
The State… shall incur obligations for payment or make payments from public funds only as authorized by law or ordinance.
Yesterday’s announcement by AG Madigan that she would oppose AFSCME’s suit also included this precedent that strongly argues against the governor’s stance…
The Illinois Appellate Court has specifically addressed the issue of whether the State can pay employees in the absence of a budget. During the budget impasse in 1991, a number of State employee unions sued the Comptroller and asked the court to issue an order compelling the Comptroller to issue paychecks due on July 15. In AFSCME v. Netsch, 216 III. App. 3d 566, 568 (4th Dist. 1991), the court held that the Comptroller could not pay State employees in the absence of an appropriation and “any attempt by the comptroller to issue the funds in the absence of an appropriation bill signed into law by the governor would create obvious problems under the separation-of-powers doctrine.” The Netsch court determined that an appropriation was necessary “to prevent government operations from being brought to a complete stop.” Id. at 568-69 (citing People ex rel. Kirk v. Lindberg, 59 III. 2d 38, 42-43 (1974)).
* The Chicago Teachers Union believes that mass layoffs are coming to the school system, so they agreed to no cost of living raises in contract negotiations, but stuck firm on their evaluation demands. The Tribune has a very good story about what’s going on…
CPS teachers are evaluated by classroom observers, and are ultimately ranked on a four-tier scale: distinguished, proficient, basic and unsatisfactory.
The union said it wants to strike the possibility of teachers receiving an overall rating of “unsatisfactory” if their classroom observation scores land exclusively at the “basic” level. […]
The union said it has suggested lowering the threshold needed for teachers to reach that scale’s “proficient” rating, in order to “address an inconsistency” in evaluations that the union says could lower the scores of solid educators.
“The current evaluation system has a flaw in it, in that the ‘proficient’ band is too narrow,” Sharkey said.
The union says that creates a situation where good teachers who consistently receive good evaluation scores — but an occasional low mark — risk getting downgraded to a “developing” rating.
And, in the context of potential mass layoffs, that downgrade could mean lots of teachers lose their jobs.