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Question of the day

Wednesday, Jun 24, 2015

* This guy is really gonna be missed

Republican state Rep. Mike Tryon announced that he will not seek re-election next year, ending a 12-year run representing McHenry County in the General Assembly.

Tryon, of Crystal Lake, cited his belief in term limits as the primary reason for stepping down, as well as a desire to spend more time with his family. He said it would be “disingenuous” of him as a Republican to support term limits – a cornerstone of new Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed agenda – yet serve beyond 12 years in Springfield.

“I’ve always supported a 12-year term limit, and I think there’s some commitment to that policy if you really are a supporter of it. I’ll be 61 at the end of this term, I own two businesses, I have my first grandchild on the way, and it’s time for me to focus on that. I’ll have no shortage of things to do,” Tryon said.

* Here he is on the left, playing with the Boat Drink Caucus

* The Question: Caption?

- Posted by Rich Miller   57 Comments      

*** UPDATED x2 *** This just in… Rauner signs K-12 funding bill

Wednesday, Jun 24, 2015

[Subscriber protection removed and comments opened because the press release was just made public.]

* 1:59 pm - Gov. Bruce Rauner will sign an appropriations bill today which funds elementary and secondary education, sources say.

That means schools would be guaranteed to receive their first state aid payment this August and would open on time this fall (except Chicago, of course, but that’s a different story.)

Stay tuned.

*** UPDATE 1 *** The press release, which hasn’t yet been sent out…

Governor Bruce Rauner signed House Bill 3763 today making appropriations for General State Aid, Early Childhood Education, Bi-lingual Education and the Teachers’ Retirement System.

Governor Rauner has always made clear that improving education is his highest priority. While the legislature’s bill does not increase education spending by as much as the governor’s proposal, it does increase K-12 education spending by $244 million and early childhood education funding by $25 million.

“Education is the most important thing we do as a community. I would have done more for our schoolchildren, but I am taking action today to ensure our teachers are paid and our schools are open and funded,” Governor Rauner said. “I refuse to allow Speaker Madigan and the legislators he controls to hold our schools hostage as part of their plan to protect the political class and force a tax hike on the middle class without real reform.”

As part of his budget plan, the governor proposed increasing K-12 education by $312 million and early childhood by $32 million.

Bill No.: HB 3763

An Act Concerning: Appropriations

Action: Signed

Effective: July 1, 2015

*** UPDATE 2 *** From the Illinois Association of School Administrators…

“We are relieved that school districts can now plan for the new school year knowing that the state budget for education is in place. While we believe General State Aid should be fully funded for schools, going from 89 percent funding to 92 percent in this budget represents some progress. The downturn in the economy and the cuts to state funding the past few years have left many school districts across the state struggling, so we are encouraged that this budget includes $85 million that is supposed to go to the neediest districts as well as increases for Special Education and Early Childhood Education. Educating our children is the single best long-term investment the state can make and we are pleased that the governor and the General Assembly have made it a priority in the middle of these tough budget negotiations.”

* Stand for Children Illinois…

Today, Stand for Children Illinois – a statewide education advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring every Illinois student has access to a high-quality public education – praised Governor Bruce Rauner and the leaders of the Illinois House and Senate for enacting HB3763, the state education budget. While the state is still falling short of fully funding our schools, this budget is still an improvement, funding general state aid to school districts at 92 percent as compared with the 87 percent this past year. It also sets aside $85 million to recoup the losses from our neediest districts.

“We commend Governor Rauner and the General Assembly for adhering to their commitment to prioritize public education in the latest budget,” said Mimi Rodman, Executive Director of Stand for Children Illinois. “In the midst of our state’s fiscal crisis and competing spending priorities, this budget demonstrates that progress remains possible when both sides work together. While we have not yet achieved the goal of full and equitable public school funding, the governor and General Assembly have eased some of the burden on our local school districts, particularly in our most underserved communities. We hope this healthy collaboration will continue as all Illinoisans work together to ensure every child has access to a great public education that prepares them for the future.”

* Advance Illinois…

Statement of Advance Illinois Executive Director Robin Steans on the Signing of the Education Budget

Today, Illinois took a first step to ending the way schools are funded through the regressive general state aid formula. While Public Act 99-5 will still prorate education funds, it raises the level of proration to 92% and supplements the budgets of our neediest districts with an additional $85 million. For years now, these districts have suffered disproportionately under proration and these additional funds help to mitigate the impact on our state’s most vulnerable students.

“We applaud the Governor for taking action and signing the education budget to allow districts time to plan. While we still have a long way to go to get to fair and full funding, this is an important first step. We have a very real problem and an intent to address it,” said Advance Illinois Executive Director Robin Steans.

- Posted by Rich Miller   159 Comments      

Here’s something you don’t see every day

Wednesday, Jun 24, 2015

* And you probably won’t ever see it again.

From a Champaign News Gazette editorial

Miller’s proposal is a long shot, at best. But it’s a good idea, one that would serve the public interest by reinserting real democracy — competitive elections — in races for the General Assembly.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** A tiny bit of reasonableness peaks through

Wednesday, Jun 24, 2015

*** UPDATE *** The governor’s office claims that this grant was not frozen. It was part of the batch of projects that weren’t reappropriated by the GA in May. So, checks couldn’t be cut after July 1. “No special release was made on this project,” I’m told.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* Gov. Rauner’s administration has made an exception to its construction grant freeze and released $3.6 million to help build a new school in Macon County

State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, who represents part of the school district, said the money should never have been frozen because it comes from a fund that is not part of the political wrangling between the governor and Democrats who control the General Assembly. […]

In the case of the school district, Manar said he made the case that the district had liquidated its old furniture and wouldn’t be able to open next fall if the money wasn’t released.

“Given the circumstances of the school district … it was clear to me that they wouldn’t be able to open for school next year unless the governor’s office reversed its decision,” Manar said. “It has nothing to do with the FY 16 budget. The school district did everything it was supposed to do.”

Manar said the same parameters that led to the release of the money for Meridian should apply to other grants that were supposed to be released this year for schools, park districts and other local governments.

“I think we would be better served if the governor was more reasonable in his approach,” Manar said.

…Adding… From Wordslinger in comments

Note how the possibility of a school not opening prompted action.

Keep that in mind going forward. No one can take that kind of heat.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      

The impact of the impasse

Wednesday, Jun 24, 2015

* From Michael McGrath at Illinois Partners for Human Services…

Hi Rich:

So we’ve heard that the state budget fiasco might impact state employee payroll in mid-July and may have an impact on education in August. But the impact of the impasse is being felt in the human service sector right now. Hundreds of human service organizations that rely on state contracts are cutting services and laying off staff.

* I asked for a few examples. He complied…

Easter Seals of Central Illinois is suspending its early intervention service coordination program starting July 1, which will impact 1,600 families in 11 counties, resulting in the furlough of 40 employees.

Chicago Area Project is a not-for-profit employment agency that would normally place 300 youth into summer jobs is now placing none.

LINC, Inc. is an organization that empowers people with disabilities to live independently. They have been forced to lay off nearly half of their staff, cut hours of the remaining staff and deny service to hundreds in the community.

Also, IARF has just announced that the failure of Illinois state leaders to adopt a new budget has prompted service shutdown planning for nearly 26,000 mentally ill adults and children.

These are innovative programs with well documented outcomes; all about to lose impact.

Keep in mind, these are not programs that lawmakers have decided to defund through some organized budget and policy process. Rather, they are victims of the lack of any budget whatsoever. And the consequences will reverberate across the state, impacting families from every community.

- Posted by Rich Miller   58 Comments      

Today’s number: 11.5 percent

Wednesday, Jun 24, 2015

* Much of today’s Tribune story covers ground that we’ve already discussed, particularly some of the governor’s harshest demands from AFSCME, including

But perhaps the most charged proposal is the one that would halt the state’s long-standing tradition of withholding directly from paychecks union member dues and fees on non-members that fund union activities. Currently, that money is deducted along with taxes and health care premiums, and then routed back to the unions. Rauner wants to end that practice, essentially cutting off the regular, predictable flow of money to his union adversaries.

* But the Trib is also reporting this

AFSCME wants an 11.5 percent pay raise over four years, two years of full health benefits for laid-off employees and what the administration describes as a more costly health care plan that offers orthodontics for adults.

Their last contract with Gov. Quinn gave them 4 percent raises over three years.

* Also, here’s something to keep in mind as the days click by

First, the governor’s office would need to declare that negotiations have reached an impasse, which would then allow the administration to try to impose the terms of its “best and final” offer. The union has the right to appeal that move to the Illinois Labor Relations Board.

If the board sides with the union, talks resume. If the board sides with the administration, it’s up to union members to vote: Either go along with the governor’s final offer, or strike.

- Posted by Rich Miller   102 Comments      

Dem Rep. announces for Aurora mayor

Wednesday, Jun 24, 2015

* I told subscribers about this several weeks ago…

On Monday night, Representative Linda Chapa LaVia (D) became the first to announce her candidacy for Mayor of Aurora in 2017. Chapa LaVia made her announcement at the Copley Theater in downtown Aurora joined by a large crowd of family, friends and supporters.

“Many of you have put me where I am today because you say I’m the hardest working public servant you know,” said Chapa LaVia. “I want to continue to serve my community, and I’d be honored to serve as the next Mayor of Aurora.”

An Aurora native and veteran of the Army and National Guard, Chapa LaVia has represented Illinois’ 83rdState House District since 2003. Over her 13 years in the Illinois State House, Chapa LaVia has worked to promote economic development and educational opportunities in her district.

“We have a lot of work to do before this election,” said Chapa LaVia. “So over these next 20 months, I need you—the people of Aurora—to tell me what you think is most important for our city.”

Chapa LaVia’s decision follows current Mayor Tom Weisner’s announcement that he will not seek re-election in 2017.

Rep. Chapa LaVia added that while her campaign is still in its early stages, two of her top priorities will be to create an atmosphere that encourages business development and growth, and promoting early childhood education.

“Our city is ready to do incredible things for jobs and education,” concluded Chapa LaVia. “For now, I’m humbled and my heart is warmed by you believing in me. I promise, no matter what, to always believe in Aurora.”

Chapa LaVia represents Illinois’ 83rd Representative District, which includes Aurora, Montgomery and North Aurora. She lives in Aurora with her husband and two daughters.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      

It has always been thus

Wednesday, Jun 24, 2015

* From comments

On one hand, [the Rauner folks] say they want Madigan to let the mushrooms vote their conscience, and on the other, they criticize him for not telling his members how to vote like we saw with the CPS bill.

The Rauner people actually criticized Madigan for telling his peeps to vote against the bill, but the Tribune editorial board has also been guilty of this, decrying Madigan’s iron grip on Illinois’ throat, but then demanding that Madigan use his velvet hammer to pass things like pension reform.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      

Good news on workers’ comp?

Wednesday, Jun 24, 2015

* From the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission chairman

Dear Governor Rauner:

On behalf of the entire Workers’ Compensation Commission, I am pleased to submit the Fiscal Year 2014 annual report.

Workers’ compensation costs are declining. Insurers reported a 19% decrease in total benefit payments (loss costs) between 2011-2015. The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute found that Illinois experienced the largest decrease in the average medical payment per claim among study states. The Oregon study found Illinois experienced the largest savings on workers’ compensation insurance.

More good news: in FY14, the first two felony convictions came in against employers that failed to follow the law to buy workers’ compensation insurance. These employers were given many opportunities to obtain insurance, but they refused. Uninsured employers put their workers at risk and they enjoy an unfair competitive advantage over law-abiding employers. These convictions strike a blow for a safer, more competitive Illinois economy for all.

My goals for the upcoming year are to instill professionalism, increase efficiency, and improve technology at the Commission. Through this effort, we will improve the administration of the Illinois workers’ compensation program. We appreciate your leadership and support in this process.


Joann M. Fratianni Chairman

* From the report

• Illinois experienced the largest decrease in the average medical payment per claim among WCRI study states, and moved from the highest state to near the median. For all cases, Illinois’ average medical payment per case fell 16% from 2010-2012. Importantly, there was little change in utilization, meaning providers did not provide more services to make up for the lost income. […]

• The closely-watched Oregon study found that Illinois had the largest decrease in premiums among all the states, dropping from the 4th highest to the 7th highest between 2012-2014. And the effects of some of the 2011 legislative changes have yet to register.

• The Illinois 2011 injury rate is 66% lower than in 1990. The overall injury rate in Illinois is lower than most states, and has declined dramatically over the years. Roughly 3% of Illinois workers experience an injury each year; only 1% loses time from work.

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      

In other Statehouse news…

Wednesday, Jun 24, 2015


Even so, [Speaker Madigan] says the House is taking Rauner seriously: like passing the governor’s plan to partially privatize the state’s Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, albeit with Democratic touches, like a three-year sunset. Democrats say after ethical stumbles in states with similar set-ups, that’s a prudent safeguard.

The movement could be seen as a sign of compromise, but instead the governor’s office says Madigan refused to negotiate in good faith on the DCEO concept, and that Madigan is stuck on the status quo. The short opportunity is seen as too short to make the new agency viable.

Rauner also wants a freeze on property taxes combined with a provision he says will save local governments money by pardoning them from having to pay the prevailing wage.

But the House rejected that plan — again. It’s not just because of Democrats, who say that’d weaken unions. Republicans didn’t go along with it.

“For the fifth time, the Rauner Republicans in the House were given an opportunity to vote for a real estate tax freeze. And for the fifth time, Rauner Republicans declined to take advantage of that opportunity to vote for a real estate tax freeze,” Madigan said.

However, Republican Representatives say Madigan is trying to fake them out with votes staged for political games. Though Democrats maintain it’s a carbon-copy of Rauner’s proposal, Republican legislators are suspicious as the measure was sponsored by a Democrat, Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion.

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      

Tracy jumps in

Wednesday, Jun 24, 2015

* Subscribers already know this

Jil Tracy has confirmed that she will run for the Illinois Senate after Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, announced last week that he will not seek re-election in 2016.

“I did meet with the Senate staff and (Senate Minority Leader) Christine Radogno came to Quincy to meet with me. I am committed and I am going to run,” Tracy said Tuesday.

Her formal announcement won’t come until closer to the time when candidate petitions are circulated in September, but Tracy’s commitment lets the Republicans focus on other potential races.

“We’re very excited to have Jil as the candidate for us,” said Brian Burian, executive director of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee.

* And quite unlike the Illinois GOP, former Rep. Tracy had some kind words for Sen. Sullivan the other day

“I appreciate what John Sullivan did for our area. I appreciate him dedicating 14 years of his time and his family’s time to being a Senator. And now I’m looking at it myself to visit with family and friends and see what’s next for me,” Tracy said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      

SEIU: Rauner “making union-busting demands”

Wednesday, Jun 24, 2015

* From a press release…

Following is the statement of SEIU Healthcare Illinois Executive Board Chair Flora Johnson, following bargaining [yesteray] with the Rauner administration over contracts expiring June 30th that represent 24,000 Department of Rehabilitation Services workers.

“It’s a sad day for our workers and for the seniors and people with disabilities they serve when they are left to bargain with a party who looks actively to be seeking an end to labor peace.

“Bruce Rauner is making union-busting demands of our low-income workforce not to save money or improve the quality of care, but because he is seeking an outright crisis to justify a political end. This hardly justifies the real and immediate harm he’s willing to let tens of thousands of Illinoisans endure.

“We urge the governor to think of welfare of the citizens he’s supposed to serve and return to the bargaining table soon with real solutions.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   46 Comments      

CPS pension roundup

Wednesday, Jun 24, 2015

* Yesterday’s House vote on the Chicago Public Schools’ 40-day pension payment delay came as a complete shock to many people

Before the vote, Republican leaders suggested that the agreement might be a step forward in thawing the frosty relations between the governor and Democrats who have controlled the General Assembly for the past 12 years.

“I think its definitely a sign of progress,” said Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont. “Hopefully, this is a gesture of goodwill on our part and the governor’s part to keep those talks going.”

Within an hour of Radogno’s positive comment, the measure failed.

* The mayor’s response was subdued

When Emanuel was asked during an appearance Tuesday on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight what happened to the agreement, he said, “Welcome to the mystery of the legislative process.”

* The governor’s office was not amused…

Administration Statement on House Vote

Attribute the following statement to Lance Trover, Director of Communications:

“Governor Rauner and Republican leaders supported this legislation, but the Speaker had Chicago Democrats vote against it. The only reason the Speaker’s Chicago caucus would vote against the Mayor’s bill is because Madigan wanted to kill it.”

* The Speaker’s response

Madigan, though, said the deal ”just didn’t get enough votes to pass,” and added he’ll work to secure the votes.

“I’m sure it can be done,” said Madigan, who hopes to persuade lawmakers the bill is “the right thing to do.”

Madigan accused the governor of ”operating on the extreme.”

“Issuing extreme press statements in the middle of the consideration of the bill is not helpful,” Madigan said. “It’s not helpful. It’s not how you do things in the Legislature.”

Speaker Madigan’s full press conference is here.

* Tribune

The House vote was 53-46, with 71 needed for passage. Democrats have 71 members in the House, but only 37 voted for the measure. The remaining 16 votes in favor of the bill came from among the 47 Republicans.

Looking deeper into the roll call, 16 members were either listed as absent, excused, not voting or voting “present.” And of the 19-member House Black Caucus, a group that’s often influential on key votes, 10 voted against the bill or did not take part in the vote, including five from Chicago.

Democratic Rep. Mary Flowers, a black caucus member from Chicago, contended Emanuel was disproportionately targeting the African- American community with red light and speed cameras to generate revenue and had closed dozens of schools affecting black children. […]

Madigan, the target of a second week of TV attack ads from Rauner, voted for the measure, as did House Republican leader Jim Durkin from Western Springs. Durkin contended he had additional GOP votes for the bill, but they pulled off the measure when it started to fail.

Democratic Rep. Lou Lang of Skokie, a Madigan ally, supported the bill but ended up voting against it to allow him to use a parliamentary maneuver to allow it to be called again if enough votes can be found to approve it.

* More

Some Chicago Democrats did give the thumbs-down. Rep. Frances Ann Hurley said she opposed any “pension holiday” that puts off a payment, even for six weeks. Rep. Mary Flowers, saying she’s willing to work on a long-term solution, said Emanuel has other options and can dip into existing funds.

“You can’t fix it by pointing the finger at Springfield,” she said.

* Greg Hinz

If you want something out of Springfield, you’d better figure out what Mike Madigan wants first—and give it to him.

That’s the message after the House speaker yesterday schooled a host of interests—including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Chicago Board of Education—on Springfield realities, leaving city schools in perilous condition and the state’s budget war more inflamed than ever. […]

Given Madigan’s normal persuasive powers with his caucus, much of Springfield concluded that the speaker didn’t want the bill to pass, at least not right now.


- Posted by Rich Miller   53 Comments      

Good morning!

Wednesday, Jun 24, 2015

* Both sides of my family came to Illinois from the South. My maternal side traces its ancestry directly back to Thomas Jefferson. My paternal side is distantly connected to Johnny Cash. Both pretty cool, if you ask me.

But, there’s always been that dark side. Did any of my ancestors own slaves? I haven’t seen any records, but it seems likely that some did. [ADDING: Jefferson was apparently a great, great, etc. uncle, so it’s unclear about the slave question.]

My paternal grandmother hailed from the London, Kentucky area, which has been a hotbed of Ku Klux Kan activity for generations. Grandma was ecstatic to get the heck out of that backwater, but, well, let’s just say some of my “country” kin to this day aren’t exactly anxious to embrace the concept of racial equality.

* Like many of my contemporaries, I’ve been exposed to casual hatred of black people since before I could walk.

Thankfully, I was raised not to be that way. I was taught early on that my widely beloved ancestor President Jefferson was a great man but no saint. I was led to realize at a fairly early age that hatred is a dangerous and debilitating disease. I ain’t no perfect angel on anything, but I do regularly examine my attitudes and thoughts on this particular topic.

* And because both sides of my family veered through Kentucky at one time or another, I find this news to be incredibly heartening

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on Tuesday that a statue of Jefferson Davis, the Civil War president of the Confederate States, should be removed from the Kentucky state capitol.

McConnell’s suggestion comes after politicians in other states considered removing the Confederate symbols from state capitol grounds after last week’s mass shooting in Charleston, S.C., which appeared to have been racially motivated.

“With regard to my own state, we curiously enough have a statue of Jefferson Davis in the capitol in Frankfort,” McConnell said at a Senate news conference. “Davis’ sole connection to Kentucky was he was born there, he subsequently moved to Mississippi. And Kentucky of course did not secede from the union.”

That statue was erected in 1936 - 71 years after the Civil War ended.

It is, plain and simple, a marbleized burning cross.

So, good for Sen. McConnell and, hopefully, good for Kentucky.

* And while we’re all counting our blessings this morning, let’s also give thanks to my late shirttail cousin Mr. Cash for writing songs like this. Get up and dance

Go on, I’ve had enough, dump my blues down in the Gulf

- Posted by Rich Miller   88 Comments      

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Wednesday, Jun 24, 2015

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* How Jason Van Dyke's projected 96-year sentence wound up being 81 months
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* Because... Chicago!
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